Working with at-risk youth across the Seacoast and New Hampshire, The Chase Home in Portsmouth sometimes “stumbles across” an opportunity to provide value in unexpected ways, which recently occurred with Sail Portsmouth.
A multiple-day festival, proceeds from Sail Portsmouth support the Maritime Commission’s Sea Challenge program, which recently provided local teenagers with the opportunity to experience sail training on a tall ship for 7 days. The program’s stated mission is “to provide the practical application of leadership through teamwork for local Seacoast youth with a flair for the sea.”
Three of those youth were from The Chase Home on the Oliver Hazard Perry, the largest tall ship in the United States.
“We were contacted by the Piscataqua Maritime Commission and they gave our kids the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Meme Wheeler, executive director at The Chase Home. “One of our staff members went with the kids as a chaperone…It’s an experience these kids will never forget.”
Rob Levey, board president of The Chase Home, said he was “ecstatic” when Wheeler called him to explain the opportunity for their kids.
“That is exactly the kind of experience that can have a lasting impact on these kids,” he said. “Whether we serve a kid in our home here, or in the community, we are committed to enhancing their lives while served by Chase Home.”
According to Wheeler, this opportunity highlights a very serious need.
“We serve some kids who have never had a meal at a table with their parents, never been to the movies, never had many of the ‘normal’ experience we take for granted every day,” she said. “This is the reality for kids across the state and, yes, even in Portsmouth.”
While on board the tall ship, Wheeler said the kids worked regular shifts like any deck hand.
“They hoisted the sails and all kinds of things I am not even sure make sense,” she laughed. “I’m just so thankful we had this opportunity and could seize it. Our thanks goes to Leonard Seagren, who was the liason for PMC Sea Challenge to Chase Home. He pursued this for our kids.”
“The Portsmouth Sea Challenge has a vision: To provide the practical application of leadership through teamwork for local seacoast youth with a flair for the sea”
In looking ahead, Levey said Wheeler and The Chase Home Board plan to seek out as many opportunities as possible to enhance the lives of the kids they serve.
“I’ve had a kid in this system,” he said. “I know first hand that these kids are not often what people make them out to be. I hope these kids had a great time and know that people care about them…They matter.”
Founded in 1877, The Chase Home in Portsmouth is one of the oldest nonprofits in New Hampshire, serving more than 140 at-risk youth annually statewide through prevention, early intervention, residential and community-based programs. Some youth are served in the community while others live at The Chase Home and receive comprehensive support and services.
Youth served by The Chase Home include those who have been abused, neglected, or in trouble with the law.