Friday, February 17, 2017

Ray Hall and the Bellingham Kiwanis Club Look to the Sea

In May of 2014, Ray Hall—a Kiwanis Club Member and Bellingham resident—stepped aboard Adventuress for the first time. His wife had seen a post in the local newspaper about a Public Sail out of Bellingham’s Squalicum Harbor Marina; she bought tickets to celebrate his birthday. It was his first time on a tall ship.

Says Ray, “We put all the sails up. It was a gorgeous day. The sky was clear, with the perfect amount of wind. I thought, ‘My gosh, I have to find a way to share this experience with others.’ Because I’m a Kiwanis Member, and because I was absolutely thrilled by the experience, I wanted to connect Kiwanis and Sound Experience in some way.”
Shortly after the Public Sail, Ray met with then-Education Director Megan Addison. He was straightforward. “I basically said, ‘I want to use your boat for young people from Bellingham,’” recalls Ray. “And I wrote a check. At the time, the money wasn’t from Kiwanis. It was from me. I wanted to make it happen. I’m a blue-collar, impatient guy and I figured I would get things moving.”

The Bellingham Kiwanis Club did end up generously funding the trip, and eventually Ray’s broad vision took on the detail of reality: students from Bellingham’s Sunnyland Elementary came aboard for two 3-hour Sound Studies trips in both 2015 and 2016. Two more programs are scheduled for spring of this year and will include Sunnyland students and additional young people from K-Kids, a Kiwanis-sponsored after-school activity group.

Writes Sunnyland principal Trina Hall, “Though our PTA works hard to provide opportunities for our students, being a Title I school means that a sail aboard Adventuress would be beyond our reach had it not been for the generosity of the Bellingham Kiwanis Club.”

For Ray, the driving force behind his mission to get kids on Adventuress is the value he places on fun. From delivering dictionaries to schools to sponsoring youth leadership training to funding the fight against neonatal tetanus in developing countries, Kiwanis International is dedicated to serving children. Explains Ray, “In our Bellingham chapter, there’s a lot that we do within the traditional school structure, which is absolutely great. But my thinking behind bringing kids onto Adventuress is that we want to offer learning that is unique and fun. Kids remember fun.”

Ray still remembers his fourth-grade teacher, who sent him a card while traveling in Mexico: “Keep in mind, this was in the 1940s. But I still remember that sense of amazement. I still have the card. I want to offer something like that to these kids—a sense of the bigger world that they will always remember and someday reach on their own.”

Despite growing up beside Bellingham Bay, many of Sunnyland’s students have never been on the water before. Says Ray, “These are kids from a Title I School. They wouldn’t have this opportunity without community support.” Having sailed alongside students during several of the Sunnyland programs, he especially remembers the shipwide enthusiasm for sea chanteys: “The kids sang along with glee. They love the sea chanteys because they get to participate and have fun. All of the happy stuff, that’s what really matters.”

Writing about the experience, Ray ends with encouraging words and a fragment of his own poetry:

Perhaps someday a marine biologist will be participating in a Kiwanis meeting and will be daydreaming of Adventuress and the experience that started his or her journey from a day on the water to a lifetime of joy. As Kiwanians, we too reap the harvest of such an excursion. The sight of wonderment felt by these young seafarers reminds us that we are on the right path.

As children we look to the sea and the stars
And as children we will always be
As Kiwanians we will always reach for the stars
But first we must go to the sea


Is your club interested in sponsoring a trip aboard Adventuress for young people in your area? For more information about how you can make this possible, click here to read about our Educational Programs or contact Education Coordinator Amy Kovacs at or 360-379-0438 x2.

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