Finding the WOW! factor
A look at WOW! Women on Water!
Rebecca Schneidereit - August 7, 2012
Dalhousie Professor Jacqueline Gahagan founded “WOW! Women On Water!” as a memorial to spouse, sailor and breast cancer victim Pamela Lerch.
“Pamela was an avid recreational sailor and who wanted to see more women get into the sport of sailing across Nova Scotia,” explains Dr. Gahagan (left), a professor in the School of Health and Human Performance. “She passed away from breast cancer in 2007. During the last visit we took the hospital I asked her how she would like to be remembered and we came up with the idea of WOW! I was the founder and worked with a number of her close sailing friends to get WOW! off the ground.”
Since its establishment, the program has offered bursaries to female sailors young and old, helping more women hit the water and making a potentially inaccessible sport that much more accessible.
Women On Water! also awards the Pamela Lerch WOW! Cup each year to a female recipient who “demonstrates outstanding achievement in sailing education, leadership, mentorship and health promotion.” WOW! describes its mission thus: “Women On Water! (Nova Scotia) is a not-for-profit program committed to promoting women’s health and wellness through awareness, mentoring and sailing.”
Making a difference
The young organization is always looking for new volunteers – and you don’t have to be able to sail just to help out. Tammy Fancy, a recreation management student at Dalhousie, recently acted as the assistant organizer for WOW!’s annual June and July barbeques and silent auctions. “I was fortunate enough to have a little experience going into it,” says Ms. Fancy. “I guess the real challenge was asking people for donations . . . I am actually quite weak with going out and being the actual salesperson,” she admits. “That was something I need to work on.” WOW! offered Ms. Fancy an “opportunity to overcome” her shyness.
Once she started contacting potential donors, Ms. Fancy identified one key reason for reluctance to donate – “a lot of people didn’t understand what the organization was!” Once potential donors had WOW!’s origin and aims explained to them, many were happy to donate gifts – the silent auction featured offerings from local businesses such as Sugah! and Rum Runners, Nova Scotian Crystal, Atlantica and Best Western Plus Chocolate Lake hotels, and afternoon sails with experienced sailors.
“It went really well. There were a lot of people there . . . we actually had a couple (people) that helped, outbidding each other.” And, although she couldn’t resist the temptation to try to take a prize home for herself, Ms. Fancy “didn’t win anything, because I was barbequing when the final half hour came through!”
In addition to the appeal of helping out with a good cause, the WOW! BBQ was a good opportunity for Ms. Fancy to put what were previously academic skills to practical use. “I wanted to gain some experience to figure out if [event planning] is what I actually wanted to do,” And now that the event is over, “I really enjoyed it and I think I want to continue with it.” She hopes to be able to combine her artistic skills with her professional pursuits: “I’m actually a professional photographer as well . . . my ideal profession would be where I can blend those two skills together.”
If you’re a woman who’s always secretly hankered after the sea, WOW! might be just the chance you were looking for. If you’ve got free time on your hands, it might be the perfect opportunity to volunteer. And even if you’re just somebody who enjoys a good barbeque, keep your eyes peeled for your next chance to support this good cause.