Box of Rain Foundation: A Living Legacy for a Friend and Sailor
A living legacy in the form of a charitable foundation is a wonderful testament to honor a person after death. In September 2002, Lee Griffin, a local sailor and businessman, was the victim of a homicide and carjacking in front of his historic Annapolis home. Several of his friends decided the best way to keep his memory alive was to create a foundation that would help serve local “at-risk” youth in the various Annapolis low-income neighborhoods. Box of Rain was our way of responding to an act of violence with an act of love.
Now in its fourth year of serving more than 75 area youth, ages 8-14 years, Box of Rain Inc. is a non-profit organization that offers a variety of maritime experiences to its participants. Annapolis is considered the sailing capital of the country and yet there are many people who live just blocks from the water and have never been on a boat.
Box of Rain runs year-round, but with an intensive summer program. The mission is to “inspire and encourage Annapolis area youth, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, to gain self-esteem and to develop life skills that lead to positive contributions to the community.” The means to success are based on a variety of maritime experiences which include sailing, boating, water safety, environmental and cultural studies as well as learning trade skills.
The participants are selected via an application process through the schools and other community organizations. Larry Griffin, co-founder of Box of Rain, is responsible for identifying many of the kids who have participated in the past four years.
The 2006 summer curriculum is offering a variety of maritime related experiences with the 37 participants every Tuesday and Thursday for eight weeks. Box of Rain currently does not have a home base of operation, but rather rotates around with the generosity of bay-related businesses and institutions. Annapolis Sailing School, Spring River Kayaks, Amphibious Horizons, J/Port, J/World, C.R.A.B., Schooner Woodwind, Annapolis Maritime Museum plus the Naval Academy—all offer their services to the Box of Rain. Field trips include days spent on the campus of St. Mary’s College, Baltimore Downtown Sailing Center and at the Chesapeake Maritime Museum. One of the highlights has been the trips to St. Mary’s College giving the kids the campus experience—especially one with a great waterfront.
At the end of the summer program, the participants enjoy an awards party. At this event, the “Outstanding Sailor of the Year” is awarded to the person who exhibited the greatest team work, aptitude, interest and good attendance. An engraved brass compass is awarded to the winning sailor. The compass is to remind the winner to stay on the right course and to always look at the compass to see if their life is heading in the right direction and holding course. The winning sailors also become “junior counselors” for the next summer season. A perpetual trophy in the form of an original painting by Kathryn Leonard hangs at The Eastport Yacht Club with the name of each winner engraved on it.
The ultimate goal of Box of Rain is to find a “headquarters” and to be able to have the facilities to take more participants each year. In addition, maritime business apprenticeships are being developed to offer the older participants a chance to develop job skills. The foundation is funded by grants, private donations and fundraising events. Box of Rain has a dedicated staff who work hard to put the many logistics together and then execute them. To make it all happen, Nan Walker, a local sailor and a pro at putting together children’s sailing programs, works with Kelsa McGlauglin, an elementary school teacher and Regan Weaver, a local sailor and mentor. Larry Griffin of We Care and Friends has worked with the program from the beginning with lunches, transportation and mentoring the kids. Anne Harrington and Frieda Wildey both work with fund raising and serve on the newly formed Board of Directors. In addition, there are many volunteers who pitch in with events, the sessions, field trips, and fundraising. For more information, the website is www.theboxofrain.org.