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      Young boat builders bond over spring break

      The Small Craft Club is a youth program where kids from at-risk environments learn the art of paddle board building.

      The Maritime Heritage Alliance in Traverse City held the "Small Craft Club" this year for its second spring break. This youth program is designed for kids in the area who might not have anything else to do during their week off from school and need a place to spend the time in efforts to stay out of trouble.

      Eight students from local organizations including the Leelanau County Court system got together this week to build 3 mahogany stand up paddleboards. The workdays are designed to fill the weekdays like school to take the burden off parents who still need to work.

      Volunteer mentors offer their time and knowledge in teaching basic boat building skills. The students spend the entire week crafting the paddle boards to a very high standard of quality, valuing the boards at about $4.500.

      Not only are the kids creating works of art, they are learning of the patience and teamwork needed to complete such a project.

      Materials needed to build the paddle boards were obtained through donations by the Traverse City Community Foundation as well as private donors and other local groups. The Small Craft Club is supplementary to the SAIL (Success Always Involves Learning) Champion youth program where at-risk youth in Northern Michigan can get one-on-one therapy while also getting to experience traditional sailing.

      Public sale of the paddle boards as well as donations help fund the SAIL Champion program. For more information on how to donate to the program or how you can help, you can visit the Maritime Heritage Alliance's website or the SAIL Champion website.