This summer, Blackjack Sailing returns to Sardis Lake to teach kids how to respect the water, capture the wind and sail the seas.

Blackjack Sailing is operated by the Sabatier family. This is the camp’s second year to be open.

Joe Sabatier works as an American government teacher at Oxford High School. He coaches the ninth grade football team, helps out with the varsity team and the summer program they do for kids in pre-k to fifth grade. He keeps a pretty full schedule from August to May, so the opportunity to get in the water and share his love sailing with kids in the North Mississippi community is always a welcome one.

The camp is broken into weeklong sessions, lasting each day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Like last year, there will be three sessions held in the month of June.

Blackjack Sailing operates on three pillars, safety, fun and learning, in that order. Sabatier said that safety comes first because, of course, it is the camp’s top priority. Fun comes next because, Sabatier said, you don’t have to necessarily understand it in order to have a good time. The learning comes later, once the camper has already fallen in love with sailing. Sabatier said that once you fall in love with the sport, it’s almost impossible to forget about.

Every windy afternoon on a sunny summer day becomes meant for sailing. What else could it be for?

Sabatier’s father is a research physicist and formerly served as a professor at the University of Mississippi. He spent some time on sabbatical in Washington D.C. with his other son, who had fallen in with the vibrant Virginia sailing community and was working at sailing camp. It was through him that the rest of the family came on board and soon fell in love with the sport.

“When my dad moved back from D.C., he still had that hunger for sailing,” Sabatier said. “He approached me and said that he wanted to give back to the community, and the way he knew how to do that was sailing.”

The family then came together and decided to form Blackjack. They established a 501c3, officially obtaining nonprofit status. Sabatier’s mother and father poured in their own finances into the camp to get it off the ground that first summer. They bought six 12-foot dinghies that the campers are learning to sail on, life jackets for the campers to wear and one inflatable motorized boat from which counselors ride in and coach from.

They all pitch in to keep up with maintenance and repairs and insurance costs, as well as scholarships they give out to children who want to participate in the camp, but cannot afford the $325 fee to attend. Blackjack isn’t one for turning kids away.

Despite their generosity, running the camp does take money. They welcome support from businesses and community organizations as well as concerned citizens who just want to help out. Those can come in the form of sponsorships, scholarships, volunteer hours or just simply a little cash to help them pay the insurance bill every month. No one is making a profit here. The family is just looking to break even and keep the camp afloat, so to speak.

“I hope that people can understand that we are truly in this because it is our passion,” he said. “We truly believe that we can create a sailing community in North Mississippi. We had a pair of young brothers from last summer who, after the camp and after the parents sailed with them, the family went out and bought a small sailboat for the whole family. We see them out at Sardis Lake Marina all the time. The mom told me they found themselves away from screens and on a sailboat as a family. For us, that’s the reward. That is what it’s truly about.”

For more information about Blackjack Sailing including how to donate, visit www.blackjacksailing.org.

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