From a Member: Wakeboarding with Akenohoshi Gakuen

TSPS Commander Bill Van Alstine submitted this report on a volunteer event held on August 4-5 and sponsored in part by Tokyo Sail and Power Squadron. Bill shares the background as to how the event came about, the goings on at Lake Yamanaka, and the results of the efforts of everyone involved. 

I’ve been involved with the Tokyo foster care home, Akenohoshi Gakuen, since 2005 when the volunteer committee of my former employer, Dresdner Kleinwort Japan, began providing support for the facility.  The home has capacity for twenty kids of junior and high school age.  Typically, facilities for preschool and elementary kids get the lion’s share of interest and support from the volunteer community and so Akenohoshi Gakuen had been largely ignored when we began in 2005.

My experience with the kids at Akenohoshi Gakuen was always good, whether we had a BBQ, visited a theme park, or went to see a movie.  After I got my JMRA boat license several years ago through TSPS  I’d wanted to put together some kind of boating event for the kids—but getting twenty kids to a boat was difficult and the staff of the home told me that it was all or none.  It was a hurdle that was difficult to overcome, and this year I could do it.

The staff of AG took my one-day plan to visit Lake Yamanaka near Mt Fuji and turned it into a tw0-day overnight event at a lodge to which foster facilities have access at very reasonable rates. The riskiest part of the plan was to do the event on a Friday and Saturday, which would require volunteers to take a day off. Luckily, TSPS members and my previous volunteer network answered the call to join. 

This event required that volunteers cover costs not just for themselves but also the costs of food for students and staff, and the boat.  So on top of the vacation day and time that had to be devoted, volunteers were required to pay ¥12,000 — and I was extremely lucky to have Jeremy Sanderson with his daughter and former commander Richard Schultz sign on.

On Day 1, Richard was assigned to drive the boat Friday from 11am to 5:30pm, with only a cold cheeseburger delivered to him at 2pm for sustenance—a long tough assignment that required continuous focus while towing. 

The twenty kids were assigned to teams of five to go out on the water for ninety minutes each.  The three landlocked teams remained on the grounds of the lodge and played soccer, frisbee, and ate their meals.  The evening consisted of a big barbecue, campfire with roasted marshmallows, watermelon — the works!   The burgers,  other food and snacks, and Saturday breakfast was all the result of work done by the volunteers.

In total we had eleven volunteers contributing to making the two-day event great fun for the kids.  Very importantly, the Tokyo Sail and Power Squadron donated almost ¥38,000 to cover the cost of the Yamaha wake boat.  This very generous gift from TSPS made a huge difference in what we were able to accomplish and the experience we were able to provide.

On Day 2 at 0500 Saturday morning, Jeremy and I cooked 100 slices of bacon and made french toast for all. The early start was to make sure we could get back on the water from 0730 for another three hours of screaming excitement with the wakeboard boat. At around noon, we wrapped up the event with a group photo and each volunteer was presented with a card of thanks that the kids had prepared for us. 

The reaction from the kids over the weekend made it so worthwhile.. They loved the design of the boat and the rides on it, they enjoyed freely jumping into the lake, and I think they were very happy that for the two days, the boat was theirs to use for their own pleasure. And for many, there was the sweet success of standing on the wakeboard and flying across the waves. Seasoned TSPS members understand how rare boating opportunities are and so it is no stretch to imagine the impact this summer event had on a group of kids that wouldn’t normally have a lot to talk to classmates about when they get back to school in the fall.  This time, thanks to TSPS will be able to describe the excitement of standing on a wakeboard and flying over the waves on an inflatable, perhaps something none of their classmates has ever experienced. 

I came home two kilos lighter from my adventure, and later when describing the event to a friend, I realised that none of the previous outings to theme parks, movies, barbecues had come close to the impact this event had on the kids. I would personally like to thank TSPS and members Jeremy and Richard for their contribution to this wonderful event, something I’m sure will be a very happy and lifelong memory for the kids of Akenohoshi Gakuen.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Quiz *