Learning to Navigate Their Future
This is so Annapolis,”
says Ann Harrington
as she talks about her passion for Box of
Rain: Youth on the Bay, the program she started along with other
members of the Annapolis sailing community. Box of Rain was launched
in 2003 as a living memorial to Lee Griffin, an avid sailor and
member of the Eastport Yacht Club.
loved the unsung hero, the underdog beating all the odds,”
Ann says remembering him fondly. He got his start in the music
industry with the Grateful Dead using his jumbotron screens in
the late ’80s. He also worked with the Rolling Stones, Bruce
Springsteen and venues such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“He had never been into sailing until he moved here from
Alexandria, Va. He found his niche in the little town of Annapolis.”
Then, in September 2002, Lee was murdered during a carjacking
outside of his Annapolis home.
The program was inspired by Lee’s love of sailing, and its
title, Box of Rain, was the name of his sailboat that came from
the lyric of a Grateful Dead song. “Everyone should have
access to the water,” says Ann passionately. “It is
like a calling.”
Box of Rain is a free program and operates year ’round,
giving at-risk youth, ages 8 to 14, an opportunity to sail and
learn life-skills. “It’s not just sailing, it’s
everything on the water,” Ann says.
Ann worked in the travel and tourist industry for 18 years before
going into real estate and grew up on the water in Cambridge,
Md. She was shocked to learn that most of the kids in the program
did not have opportunities on the water.
The creation of Box of Rain has been an eye- opening experience
for everyone involved. Nan Weaver, who works with the Severn Sailing
Association, was aware that there was no access to the water for
kids unless they were part of a sailing school program or their
family owned a boat. It motivated her to create the curriculum
for Box of Rain. “The goal was not to just pile a bunch
of kids on a boat and take them for a ride,” she says with
fervor. “They can be a valuable part of the community and
have a stake in the future of the sailing capital of the world.”
Roland Queen receives Outstanding Sailor of the Year
perpetual award from Anne Harrington.
Nan has a degree in physical education, is a U.S. sailing instructor/trainer
and started the Kidship sailing school in 1985. “I started
with three boats, myself and one other instructor,” she
says with a laugh. When she sold the business 10 years later in
order to run a U.S. Sailing Center in Martin County, Fla., she
had more than 300 kids enrolled each summer, a staff of eight,
and 14 boats. Some of her former students have gone on to race
boats and are now in college programs.
Box of Rain plans to take the kids to St. Mary’s College
in southern Maryland which offers sailing scholarships. “We
want to keep showing them the light, that it’s not just
limited to their own backyard,” says Ann.
“Our great success last year was Roland,” she says.
“He comes from a family of eight and an extremely challenging
background.” Roland had been in and out of schools and foster
homes and was recruited by Larry Griffin of We Care and Friends.
“He came to everything. Some of the other kids were not
so diligent,” says Ann. Sailing gave Roland an identity.
At the final awards party in August, Roland received the award
for Outstanding Sailor of the Year. “We gave him a brass
compass with his name engraved on it,” she says, “to
[remind him to] keep a steady course in life.”
One of the sailing instructors, Regan Weaver, became his mentor
and also tutored him. Then she introduced him to racing. He became
permanent crew on a J-105 and is now on the honor roll at his
middle school. “He’s like a neighborhood hero on Clay
Street,” Ann says proudly. “His friends see him in
his foul weather gear, and they want to go sailing too. We’re
trying to really make it contagious for them all.”
The twice-a-week Box of Rain instruction includes sailing, rigging,
swimming, fishing and crabbing and will offer power boating this
summer. “We built up such a huge respect last year,”
says Nan. “It goes both ways. My learning curve was…whew!
And we learned a lot about the kids. I’m blown away by the
Box of Rain is organized under the auspices of the Eastport Yacht
Club Foundation. It does not own any boats but instead uses in-kind
donations from local sailing schools and boating programs. “If
anybody is interested in taking the kids out, if they have a boat,
any size,” says Nan, “I’d be willing to talk
to them.” The program also needs more money, donations of
equipment such as life jackets and water shoes and more volunteers
to assist the kids during the summer and throughout the year.
A volunteer does not have to be involved every week or be interested
only in sailing.
Lee had raised money for local organizations, such as Larry Griffin’s
We Care and Friends, through the annual blues festival. “Lee
was a friend and a brother,” says Larry, who is also the
percussionist for the band Mama Jama. When Lee’s friends
decided to organize the Box of Rain program, Larry gathered up
young people from Clay Street and public housing areas to participate.
He also recruited them from the Eastport peninsula where he himself
had grown up and been actively engaged on the water. He gave selflessly
to the kids, providing lunch and transportation from the Stanton
Center and a large presence for them to lean on. This year, he
and others will be casting a wider net to attract a diverse group
of young people from all racial and ethnic groups throughout the
area. “I would like to see more volunteers get involved
with these kids,” says Larry. “They need mentors.”
Box of Rain founders and organizers: Anne Harrinton, Larry Griffin,
Regan Weaver and Nan Walker.
Nan Walker expresses it best. “We want them to know dreams
Dreams have happened for 25 young people who have been given the
helm at a crucial moment in their lives and are now sailing toward
a bright horizon. They’ve happened because of the sailing
instructors who taught them how to navigate a boat—and their
future, and because of the many volunteers and contributors whose
gifts of spirit and generosity have poured down on them like rain.
“A box of rain will ease the pain and love will see you
through. Just a box of rain—wind and water. Believe it if
you need it, if you don’t just pass it on…”
To make a donation, volunteer or learn more about Box of Rain:
Youth on the Bay, call Ann Harrington at 410-280-0619 or visit
www.theboxofrain.org. All donations are tax-deductible.
Connie Harold is an award-winning playwright and marketing professional based