Lifesail, which teaches youths about the joys of sailing, raised about $8,000 at its inaugural Sail-a-thon in Marina del Rey.

On Nov. 10, LifeSail hosted its first-ever Sail-a-thon in Marina del Rey, an all-day event to get youths in Los Angeles excited about sailing.
It was open to children of all ages and all experience levels. All proceeds from the Sail-a-thon went to the LifeSail program, as well as LifeSail’s Boat Building STEM Leadership Program and Sailing STEM Leadership Program. LifeSail is a nonprofit sailing organization that teaches leadership skills to underserved youth.
Each sailor was sponsored by either a family member or friend through a donation of $25. Overall, the Sail-a-thon raised a total of $8,000 for the LifeSail program, with a total of 55 people in attendance, event organizers said.
Several groups also contributed to the event, including the Hawthorne Police Officer Association, All States Notary Inc., National Staff Assault Task Force, and the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
“The event was a big success. We were able to reach out to many people who had never been sailing before and they had a fantastic time sailing for a good cause,” said Carina Downing, director of operations.
After learning about a similar event in Ventura, LifeSail representatives decided to hold their own Sail-a-thon fundraiser and got all of their coaches on board.
“It is a fundraiser for our programs; all of our coaches are involved in it, and we are focused on raising money for the upcoming boat-building sessions and sailing sessions,” said Matt Schulz, founder of LifeSail.
Schultz founded LifeSail in 2003 as a way to introduce youngsters aged 8 to 18 to the joys of sailing. The program consists of youth building boats together, learning how to sail, and getting out on the waters of Marina del Rey to apply what they have learned.
LifeSail has over 50 boats in total that they take out into the Marina for keel sailing. The staff at LifeSail are all first-aid and CPR certified, with eight coaches altogether.
“The idea of LifeSail is to really focus on underprivileged children,” said Schulz. Right now, LifeSail is working with kids from South L.A., East L.A., Hawthorne, MacArthur Park, and many more communities in the Los Angeles area.
Parents can also get involved in the sailing program. Schulz noted that in activities like boat building, parents and children are able to bond, as they are building something together with patience and parents can learn something new about their children.
Working with schools is another big part of LifeSail, as they are currently implementing a new pilot program in STEM REACH for middle school students. “It’s all based on science and math standards,” said Downing.
The classes are hands-on activities where kids get to work in groups and learn math and science concepts through sailing-related activities. “We are the only ones on the West Coast to be running this program; it’s a brand new program,” said Downing. “Hopefully it can be a part of the regular school day requirements.”
Schulz added, “They’re learning those concepts and those concepts are being reinforced. We have gotten 3,000 kids involved with sailing so far.
“It’s not a handout, they have to work for it. We have different incentive programs for children,” he continued. “Our focus is to serve the kids.” Life Sail has prizes for the kids that go to the Most Outstanding Sailor, Most Improved Sailor, and there is also a Character Trophy. “Confidence meets in all areas of their lives,” said Schulz.
Through the Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, Burlington Middle School in MacArthur Park will be one of the schools that LifeSail will be working with. “We are teaching physics by building the boat and sailing,” Schulz said. “They take this new experience and can apply it much quicker.”
LifeSail also works to incorporate the arts into sailing. On Nov. 16, students from the Mar Vista Family Center in Del Rey who are part of a Venice Arts photography class will be taking photos.
“They are going to be sailing and taking photos,” said Downing. “They will be in their 10th week of the photography class, so they will have all the basic skills of how to use a digital camera.”
Schulz, who has been sailing for over 50 years, touched on the benefits of sailing, saying it is “really the only sport that I know that teaches every aspect of life.”
“It teaches housekeeping, ownership, and leadership. In terms of sailing, there’s a discipline – you have to rely on each other, you have to really focus, not on yourself, but the people around you, and camaraderie is a part of it.
“Without camaraderie, you cannot be a leader. It teaches (the youth) critical thinking and character. Sailing is an activity that you really educate yourself in safety and security.
“We teach things that go to the head, and then when the class is over it moves to the heart,” said Schulz.
Information on the LifeSail program, Carina Downing at