Wowed by WOW!

WOW stands for Women On Water.

- July 8, 2011

Summer in Halifax as seen from a sailboat.
Summer in Halifax as seen from a sailboat.

WOW! is not only an acronym for Women On Water!, it also describes the people involved, the programs it supports and the mentorship it provides. On Thursday, July 21, 2011 organizers are holding a silent auction and BBQ to raise funds and awareness for WOW! a program that promotes the health and wellness of women in Nova Scotia through the sport of sailing.  

Jacqueline Gahagan, professor and chair in the Health Promotion Department at Dalhousie University and WOW!’s founding chairperson, says WOW! is committed to promoting the health of women through sailing mentoring and education.

“The on-ramp to sailing can be a bit of a challenge,” she says. “WOW! is a great opportunity for women to have access to boats and get out on the water whether it’s their first time or they’re competitive sailors who need additional funding.”

Remembering Pamela

WOW! was created in 2007 in memory of Pamela Lerch who passed away from breast cancer on April 22, 2007 at age 45. Pamela was a devoted sailor whose wish was to establish a not-for-profit organization that would enhance and promote the health of women through sailing. The foundation was created and now offers three unique bursary programs for women:

  • Health and Physical Activity Bursary Program
: This annual $300 bursary supports women looking to do dry-land training during the winter months. The bursary funds can be used to purchase a fitness membership or other equipment needed for training. Those eligible to apply are Nova Scotia-based women looking to learn how to sail and are enrolled in a health and physical activity promotion program in the off-season.

  • Sailing Equipment and Boat Outfitting Bursary Program: 
This annual $300 bursary provides funds for sailing equipment or outfitting and upgrading boat equipment. Those eligible to apply are Nova Scotia-based women with a keen interest in sailing and require equipment to continue being active in the sport. 

  • Sailing Education Bursary Program: 
This annual $300 bursary supplies the money needed to off-set the cost of sailing education for the successful recipient. Those eligible are Nova Scotia-based women with an active interest in learning to sail or upgrading their existing skills.

WOW! also presents The Pamela Lerch Memorial WOW! Cup to a female mentor in sailing who demonstrates outstanding leadership and participation in sailing education. The WOW! Cup is presented at the NSYA annual general meeting. Since its establishment, WOW! has given away eight bursaries and three cups.

Erica Siba, a master’s student in health promotion at Dal, received the WOW! Sailing Education Bursary in April. She’s grateful for the opportunity to take lessons and use sailing as a way to keep active.

WOW! is supported by a variety of donations from Nova Scotia-based organizations including Atlantic Acura, Garrison Brewing, NSYA and Century 21. It’s housed under the NSYA Women’s Programs which, according to Dr. Gahagan, requires more visibility in an effort to increase utilization.

Part of an active lifestyle

“Women’s sailing programs across the board are not very well utilized. WOW! aims to increase women’s excitement about sailing and have it be considered a viable health promotion activity.”

Frank Denis, the executive director of NSYA, has seen first hand the difference WOW! has made.

“There are a lot of costs associated with sailing. But because of programs like WOW!, women are getting more and more involved. One recipient of the bursary was able to sail half-way around the world and another was able to become a certified instructor.”   



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