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February 29th 2012. By Diane Byrne.

YachtWorld Foundation Honors Heroes

The 2011 awards go those who protect the oceans and foster mutual understanding from local to international levels.

A circumnavigator. A yacht broker who formed a trust focused on tolerance. A branch of the U.S. military. And a couple who use boating as therapy. All five have been named YachtWorld Heroes for 2011 by the YachtWorld Foundation.

John Weller and Debra Frenkel of Freedom Waters Foundation were among those receiving YachtWorld Foundation Hero awards from YachtWorld founder Jessica Muffett, on right.

The YachtWorld Foundation, established in 2010 as the charitable arm of YachtWorld.com, has broadened its focus to honor individuals and organizations making a difference. They may be protecting the marine environment, for example. They may be striving for change in the world. Perhaps they’re doing a combination of these, along with saving lives. Regardless, these principles led to the nominations and honoring of five YachtWorld Heroes. They are: Mark Schrader of Around the Americas,  Alex Braden of Encompass: The Daniel Braden Reconciliation Trust, the U.S. Coast Guard, and Debra Frenkel and John Weller of Freedom Waters Foundation.

So what does being a YachtWorld Hero mean? Jessica Muffett, founder of YachtWorld.com and the YachtWorld Foundation, says the idea for YachtWorld Heroes came out of a brainstorming meeting last year. “Everyone without exception was supportive and excited to help,” she explains. The ultimate idea came from Bob Summers, Dominion Marine Media’s director of operations. “To test interest, I called friends in the yacht-brokerage business asking for nominations, and they were all excited and had someone to nominate,” Muffett adds.

When you learn what each of the YachtWorld Heroes does, there’s no wonder people were excited. “YachtWorld Heroes are stories of boating people sharing their love for the ocean, who have the potential to influence our future,” Muffett says. “This commonality is a wonderful story itself, so we set out to retell their stories, and focus on all the good that boaters are doing around the world.”

Around the Americas drew inspiration from Sailors for the Sea, which engages boaters in protecting endangered waters. For Around the Americas, Schrader circumnavigated North and South America, a 28,000-nautical-mile sail, in just over a year. Accompanied by scientists and conservationists, he educated citizens about protecting the ocean and gathered scientific data for like-minded organizations. Schrader is no stranger to long voyages, having circumnavigated the world solo on two previous occasions.

Encompass was founded by Braden and his family in 2003, a year after his son Daniel was killed in a terrorist bombing in Bali. Daniel was there for a rugby match, a player on a Taiwanese team. Encompass may have been borne out of tragedy, but its accomplishments help avert it. The goal of the organization is to encourage youths worldwide of varying cultural, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds to understand and tolerate differences and inspire the same in their communities. Trips have involved tall-ship cruises and land-based excursions, uniting more than 1,000 young people to date. Braden and his son enjoyed traveling together while Braden was chairman and CEO of Yachting Partners International, the yacht-brokerage firm.

While the U.S. Coast Guard is no stranger to boaters and yachtsmen, not everyone may realize it has a 200-year history. It’s responsible for both civil and military responsibilities, with about 42,000 men and women on active duty. The Coast Guard protects the American maritime economy and environment, saves boaters in danger, and defends maritime borders.

Meanwhile, the Freedom Waters Foundation targets a multitude of people of all ages who can benefit from boating and other water activities. Frenkel and Weller work with individuals with disabilities and life-threatening illnesses, plus at-risk youth. Among other things, Freedom Waters Foundation runs adaptive-sailing programs, where the disabled can learn to sail independently. It also runs “Weller Days,” yacht outings for children with cancer and their families. Freedom Waters Foundation co-founder Weller is a five-time cancer survivor himself.

While each of the YachtWorld Heroes expressed gratitude for the recognition, it may seem like a big fuss to some of the honorees. After all, they do what they do because they have a passion for it. But isn’t passion one of the primary factors that motivates others to take action? Muffett seems to adhere to this belief. “I hope the exposure we provide their organizations will help them raise awareness and funds for their missions. I also hope that our recognition of their passion, results, and hard work will inspire others.”

You can ensure that a worthy person or organization gets recognition for the 2012 YachtWorld Heroes. Nominations are now being accepted, via a questionnaire on the YachtWorld Foundation website Categories include Protecting Our Oceans; Marine Industry Professional Changing the World; Joy of Boating Crusader; and Other. Other is intended for individuals and groups who don’t easily fit into the other categories. Muffett says she’s open to adding more specific categories.

While you’re considering who you know and how he or she suits a category, keep in mind this statement from E.M. Forster: “One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested.”

Diane M. Byrne

Diane Byrne
Diane M. Byrne is the founder and editor of the daily updated website Megayacht News. A longtime yachting writer, she also contributes to Yachts International, Boat Exclusive, and other magazines. She is additionally a member of the International Superyacht Society Board of Directors and Vice Chair of the U.S. Superyacht Association.