Program helps kids in rough waters

VIENNA – After spending a day on the river, 32 Wood County teenagers know that a group of volunteers cares about them.

Volunteers with Wake the World-West Virginia, coordinated by Clint Suggs of Washington, W.Va., provided wakeboarding opportunities on the Ohio River, food and other fun activities on land on July 29 for local youth in foster care, the juvenile system and community-based programs.

For most of the teens, some as young as 13 years old, it was the first time they had ridden on a boat and enjoyed water sports on the Ohio River.

Wake the World is a nonprofit, charitable organization that provides water sports opportunities to residents of local children’s homes, those in foster care or in the care of the state, according to its website.

The events are made possible by people that donate their time and resources.

For the recent event, based at Buzzie Dils Park in Vienna, boats and drivers for wakeboarding were provided by Les Pritchard, Buzzie and Brett Dils, Greg Hodgin, John Brown, Patrick Castro, Scott Jenkins, Scott Woodland and Suggs.

“The kids had a lot of fun,” said Suggs, whose sons Clayton, Andrew and Patrick were among the volunteers helping the teens on the water.

Several of the teens got up on the wakeboards and did some things they didn’t know they could do, he said. River conditions were better than expected after several days of rain.

Darren Tallman, Wood County Juvenile Drug Court judge, talked with the teenagers during dinner at the riverfront park. Volunteers from Liberty Street Church of God in Parkersburg and their pastor, the Rev. Brian Harrell, helped with setting up the food and other activities around the park shelter. The Janes provided easy-listening acoustic music for the day.

For Suggs, it was his third Wake the World event this year, with others being in North Carolina and Ohio. After meeting with Wake the World founder Greg Hodgin in North Carolina, Suggs brought the first Wake the World-West Virginia to Vienna last summer.

The Vienna event coincided with similar activities in Foster Lake, Ore., and San Antonio, Texas, on July 29. Since the first Wake the World in 2008, the program has expanded to 25 events in 17 states and Canada, involving more than 300 boats, this year.

Hodgin, of Asheboro, N.C., brought his boat and helped the local teens last week. Hodgin is a U.S. masters wakeboard champion.

Wakeboarding combines the techniques of waterskiing, snowboarding and surfing, with a person riding a wakeboard while being towed by a motorboat.

WTW began five years ago with eight families providing a day on the lake for residents of a local children’s home in North Carolina. Besides working with less fortunate youth, Wake the World has been adapted to include injured servicemen through Wounded Warriors, Hodgin said.

Hodgin sees Wake the World as being the epitome of “love your neighbor as yourself.” It is a way of sharing the love of God and people through sports, he said.

Children have told Hodgin the Wake the World event was the best day of their life. He has seen adult volunteers with tears in their eyes as they work with the youngsters.

The program begins with a prayer in the morning, a team-building game, instruction and mentoring throughout the day.

Participation increased since last year’s inaugural activity in Wood County. Last year, 23 teens rode on six boats on the Ohio River. Suggs said he intends to make Wake the World an annual event in Wood County.