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Volunteerism, community spirit, resilience, courage, hard work? These are qualities that the fiercest of storms, natural or man-made, often bring to the surface in a community.

For students at the Marco Island Interscholastic Sailing Team, there was no hesitation in committing countless hours to the island’s sailing center before and after Hurricane Irma. The team is made up of students from Marco Island Charter Middle School, Lely High and Marco Island Academy.

With amazing speed and focus, they pulled together in the spirit of conquering adversity and prepared for Irma, the now infamous monster storm. After news had spread of Irma’s unexpected change of route from the east to the west coast, these freckle-faced, eager and normally carefree students bonded together with admirable strength and dedication in preparing the sailing center's launch site for the winds and the surge, which were predicted to hit the island.  

The sailing team is organized by the Marco Island Sailing Center, a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring the skill and joy of sailing to youth and adults of all ages, so that it is attainable and affordable for all.  The sailing center's students demonstrated the courage and strength, which embodied the resilience of the Marco Island community, when they learned the island would meet Irma eye to eye. Boats were prepared, secured and the instructional shed was boarded up. The students heeded the Governor’s call, “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best!”

The storm threatened to take their beloved sailing boats, sailing classroom and the idyllic white sandy beach where they had launched their boats under turquoise blue lit skies on so many perfect sailing days.  They each promised each other and the team, led and coached by Rocky Cale and Terry Naylon, that they would be back sailing together one day.

Irma’s winds and surge hit the little beach hard.  Yet, that did not deter these students from volunteering to clean up the site, tarping up both walls of the classroom shed, which had been lost in the winds, cleaning up all the debris washed up on the beach and, of course, rebuilding the boats to sail again. And sail again they did, as promised.  

After a long storm induced recess, reorganization and a lot of hard work, the students took to the seas again, undaunted, full of hope and promise.  On a cloudless day with the glorious colors of the island's seas and skies as a backdrop, they sailed, unafraid and ready to relive the magic of the Thousands Islands, a place like no other in the world.