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Towne Salute: Nan Walker, Box of Rain

May 19, 2016 01:18PM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Becca Newell

With more than 30 years of sailing experience and an unwavering passion for all things nautical, it’s not surprising that Annapolis resident Nan Walker would find her niche in Box of Rain, a nonprofit established in 2002, with a mission to mentor disadvantaged kids by introducing them to the maritime life.

“We wanted to create a program that would make these underserved kids better members of the community,” she says.

Walker has been with the group since its inception, helping to establish Box of Rain’s very first program—Summer on the Bay—which is still in existence today. This multifaceted program offers various aquatic-related instruction, like sailing, fishing, and swimming, which inevitably teaches kids about the environment and water safety, too. Throughout this program, participants not only gain knowledge of the subject, they learn a host of other skills, like teamwork, determination, and fortitude—all of which are extremely important for their personal development, she says.

“We want them to not be afraid to try something new,” Walker says, before citing an example. “A lot of the kids are used to pools, but aren’t used to swimming in the Bay, so it took us a while to convince them to jump off of a boat into the water.”

The program runs two days a week for seven weeks throughout the summer, typically culminating in a trip to Assateague Beach in Virginia. For most of the students, this trip not only marks their first time crossing the Bay Bridge, but their first interaction with the ocean.

“It’s more of an eye-opening experience for them; we’re not trying to press them into a career in maritime,” Walker says of Box of Rain’s mission. “But we want them to see that there’s an industry of careers available to them.”

A prime example of this is the organization’s Build A Boat program, in which students build rowboats, paddleboards, digs, and other watercraft that are then sold during Box of Rain’s annual fundraiser in an effort to seize funding for future programs. Another is Revolution Kids, established in 2010, in partnership with the Annapolis police, transportation, and parks and recreation departments, that teaches bike repair skills.

“At the end of the program, the kids receive a bike and a helmet,” Walker says. “But in the meantime, the kids work on other bikes that we turnaround and sell.”

The effort to broaden Box of Rain’s educational efforts and expand programs outside of the summer months stems from the board’s insistence to do so, along with input from its executive director and the recent hiring of a program director.

“It used to just be me,” Walker says, laughing. “But now I’m being more of a support and, as part of the board, leading [the directors] in the right direction.”

One endeavor she’s eager to fulfill is to help find a central hub—or clubhouse—for the group to allow for after-school activities and additional counseling.

“We’d like to find a home and have a permanent base,” she says.

Walker still spends at least one day a week with the kids during the summer program, particularly if the activity involves sailing, and, on occasion, she develops daily curriculums.

“We have great times together. We do some really cool stuff that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do otherwise,” she says. “I really enjoy it, so if I’m able to do it, I try.”

And she encourages anyone interested in volunteering with the group; no matter how minimal their time commitment might be, to try to join in on the fun, too.

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