Suzanne Johnson, a single mother of three, was a busy and successful Burlington Vermont entrepreneur when she received the call and heard the devastating words: “You have cancer.” Numbed, grief-stricken and frightened, she underwent countless rounds of treatments for breast cancer, beginning the long road to recovery.
“I experienced first-hand how emotionally devastating and overwhelming cancer can be for not only the patient, but for their caregivers and families,” says Johnson, “We all needed a break, a respite, a time-out from cancer, but there was none.”
Drawing on her lifelong love of the water, Suzanne remembered that sailing had always been an important part of maintaining her emotional health. She quickly made sailing an integral part of her own cancer recovery and she credits it as being a major factor in making it through the darkest, most challenging period of her life.
That experience inspired her, in 2014, to start Respite Sailing for Cancer, a non-profit organization operating under the name Healing Winds Vermont. Its mission was to provide private respite sails free of charge for anyone coping with any type or stage of cancer. The program was an instant success. In its first 5 years Respite Sailing for Cancer/HWVT provided private sailing experiences and lasting memories to over 1500 cancer patients and their loved ones.
In fact, the program was so well received that Suzanne began getting calls from folks all over the USA asking for advice on how to start a similar program in their part of the country.
In response, Suzanne created in February 2020, another non-profit Sail Beyond Cancer, a national organization whose mission is to continue to provide life affirming sailing experiences by honoring those being challenged by cancer by harnessing the healing powers of wind, water and sail. Nationally, the organization has two Chapters: Sail Beyond Cancer Vermont and Sail Beyond Cancer North Shore, MA, and will continue to help create new chapters nationwide.
These life-changing experiences are made possible by generous donations from caring corporations, family foundations and individuals. Donations of vessels, equipment, services, time and cash, combined with the dedication of volunteer board members, captains, and crew make it all happen. We invite you to step aboard, lend a hand, and make a difference!