Boat driver and child enjoying the ride at a previous Freedom Waters Foundation event.

Enjoying a previous event.

Volunteering for the 2nd Annual Freedom Waters Foundation Lake Days at Lake Lanier and Port Royale Marina on Saturday, September 17, and Sunday, September 18, can be a win on so many levels. From the veterans and the individuals with special needs to the volunteers who donate their time and their boats, it’s a chance to share a love of boating and to spend some time on the water.

The two-day event focuses on taking veterans and their families out for boat rides on the lake on Saturday; Sunday’s event will host children with life-threatening illnesses/special needs and their families. Each day, after the morning boat rides, participants and volunteers will be treated to a barbecue lunch at Port Royale Marina prepared by Galley Gourmet.

Volunteers Nancy and Gary Dalton kept their cabin cruiser at Port Royale and volunteered last year for both days. The former Lawrenceville residents who moved this year to Virginia are hoping to come back at some point to support the activity.

Last year, she worked as a land volunteer for the veterans. The second day, the couple hosted a family that had two children with special needs, including an infant, taking them out for a boat ride. “The parents both said that they all enjoyed the boat ride. It was so soothing and comforting for them to be on the water. We even had their 8-year-old son Luke on the helm.”

Dalton said that she made several connections last year and still keeps up with them on Facebook.

“The friendships we made extended far beyond the event itself,” she said. “Working with Debby, her staff and volunteers is such a joy and it’s obvious how much passion she has for Freedom Waters Foundation and its mission. I have even encouraged other people to become involved.”

Volunteer Scott Long keeps his boat at Port Royale; he heard about the event through the marina and through Lake Lanier Boaters’ Group Facebook page.

“As soon as we heard about it I signed up with my family,” said Long. “We bought our first boat in April 2021, and we wanted to get to know more people and to support the community on the water.”

Long said it was a good way to teach his college-aged children about the benefits of volunteering and helping others. Both attend Clemson where community service is emphasized.

“We hope to be there to help set up on Friday night, then take people out on our boat,” Long said. “The time on the boats is a good way to get to know the veterans and families of children with special needs. I’m just so glad to be able to participate.”

Freedom Waters Foundation was created in March 2006 by Debra Frenkel, a licensed clinical social worker who now serves as the organization’s executive director, and yacht broker John Weller with the goal of serving individuals with special needs and veterans.

“Our goal is to give our participants the freedom to experience parts of life they might not otherwise be able to participate in,” said Frenkel, who volunteered with disabled sailing for more than a half-dozen years. “Through a generous group of volunteers who gladly captain their boats to take folks on the water, and our sponsors, we are able to do so much.”

For the past 16 years, the foundation has provided on-the-water outings for veterans, people with disabilities, plus children and youth with disabilities/life threatening illnesses, youth at risk and their families in south Florida. Headquartered in Naples, the program has expanded to include therapeutic boating, fishing events and adaptive sailing.

On the final weekend of September 2021, the foundation brought together more than 460 veterans, youngsters with life-threatening illnesses/special needs and their families, plus boaters and volunteers to experience Lake Lanier.

“At our first-ever event at Port Royale Marina last year, we were overwhelmed by the participation by the families and volunteers alike,” Frenkel said. “It far exceeded our expectations and we are so thrilled to be back at Lake Lanier and Port Royale again this year for our second annual event.”

For information, to become a sponsor and to volunteer as a boat captain or as land support, contact Freedom Waters Foundation at, email or call 239 263-2377.