Dr. James Dougherty Sails with HWVT

Dr. James Dougherty Sails with HWVT

A local nonprofit organization typically takes cancer patients out on Lake Champlain for sailing excursions, free of charge. But this year, they’ve focused on bringing health care workers some relaxation.

Health care workers have been busy around the clock for months now, saving lives and dealing with the novel coronavirus.

For Doctor James Dougherty, who runs a local family care practice, these uncharted waters have been tricky to navigate. “It’s been a struggle to change our whole mode of business from in-person care to telemedicine visits, and then now we’re working back to in-person care again, trying to stay flexible and adaptable in the way that things have changed in health care.”

When he learned he’d been nominated for a ‘Health Care Heroes’ respite sail, he said a break on the lake with his family was just what he needed. “It’s great, I’m grateful for the opportunity. I mean the hard work is great work and I’m happy to do it, but it’s nice to be offered this opportunity to get out on the lake and take a break and take my family out with me. So we need a little extra time together and that’s a great thing to have.”

These voyages are possible because of community donations. Sylvia Oblak, executive director of Healing Winds Vermont, says the nonprofit is happy to put its resources to use and give these ‘Health Care Heroes’ some much-needed rest and relaxation. “This is all about them, this is their sail, this is their five-star experience out on the lake. And it’s just an amazing powerful way to give back to these people who give so much to us.”

To make a donation or to nominate a ‘Health Care Hero’ click here.

Local 22/Fox 44 on HWVT Healthcare Heroes

Local 22/Fox 44 on HWVT Healthcare Heroes

HWVT Celebrating Healthcare Heroes Local 22 / Fox 44

Just one day before we begin our sailing season celebrating our community’s healthcare heroes, Local 22 /Foxx 44 stopped by to find out why HWVT pivoted from serving cancer patients to celebrating the people who have been on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic right here in Vermont.

Here’s an excerpt from the story:

Not wanting to risk the spread of COVID to the immuno-compromised, the crew at Healing Winds Vermont, decided to change course. This year, they’ve set out to thank workers in the health care industry, for all the work they do, especially in these past few months.

As Patrick Knowles, who is on the board of directors tells me, making the shift was an easy choice. “Our health care workers are facing difficult, challenging situations. They’ve stepped up, they deserve a break. And so just casting off the lines, and getting underway, you can see those concerns melt and people can just relax. And it’s a really welcome respite, and a welcome break.”

Tomorrow, they’re setting sail for the first time this season. Captain Kym Ketcham tells me it is the perfect thank you gift for stressed-out health care workers. “You’re just sitting out there with the rhythm and the wind, and the sailboat is just moving through those waves and it’s, it’s, it’s a feeling you can’t get in anywhere else, it’s just a unique feeling to be out there.

To sign-up a health care professional, or to make a donation, click here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. 

Who's at the helm? A hero, that's who!

Oncology Nurses ROCK

HWVT on WCAX – Healing Winds Vermont

HWVT on WCAX – Healing Winds Vermont


As we rigged our sails to embark on a new journey this 2020 Covid-19 sailing season, WCAX caught wind of our pivot and had a few questions for us. Here is an excerpt from the story.


Published: Jul. 16, 2020 at 8:29 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 16, 2020 at 2:19 PM EDT

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – The coronavirus pandemic has caused waves of anxiety and stress for health care and other essential workers. Now, the Burlington nonprofit Healing Winds is back on the water to help.

“We have had a slow and thoughtful and mindful start to our season, so we have decided because cancer patients and their doctors may not be comfortable being in the boat we’ve reduced our program,” said Sylvia Oblak, the group’s executive director.

Oblak says last year they were able to make 64 mission sails with cancer patients. But since the coronavirus is more dangerous for those at high risk of infection, taking cancer patients out on the water just didn’t seem safe, so they decided to adjust their mission for more smooth sailing.

“We have pivoted because we understand that stress is a huge factor for our health care workers and we want to say, Healing Winds wants to say thank you to the health care workers in our community,” said Oblak.

They have decided to offer tours to health care workers who work with cancer patients, whatever their role may be.

Copyright 2020 WCAX. All rights reserved.
See the rest of the story HERE.
Healthcare Heroes
HWVT Celebrates Healthcare Heroes

HWVT Celebrates Healthcare Heroes


While our organization usually offers cancer patient support via therapeutic sailing excursions, Covid-19 has us pivoting to give back to healthcare heroes who serve the cancer community!

Please help us raise $10,000 to provide our community’s Healthcare Heroes with free private sailing excursions on beautiful Lake Champlain in Burlington, VT.

Healing Winds is so thankful for ALL Healthcare Heroes, who have risked everything to keep their communities safe and healthy. Instead of letting the pandemic stop us, we want to take care of the people who are taking care of us. 

If you are a Healthcare Hero who works in any department serving cancer patients in any capacity, we want to take YOU sailing!  If you know a Healthcare Hero who would benefit from leaving stress on the shore, PLEASE NOMINATE THEM TODAY!

Announcing HWVT’s New Lead Captain

Announcing HWVT’s New Lead Captain

Welcome Aboard, Lead Captain Kym Ketcham!

Healing Winds is so pleased to announce that Captain Kym Ketcham has joined our growing staff as Lead Captain. Last year, Kym was one of our most dedicated captains, taking more than 100 guests out on therapeutic, uplifting sailing excursions. Kym brings a wealth of experience and a passion for showing cancer patients a good time out on his beloved Lake Champlain.

Sailing is a way of life for Captain Ketcham. Well over fifty years ago on horribly hot summer days, Kym would hop on his bike, and, with the 400-acre family farm and its hay baler receding behind him, head toward his grandparent’s lake house ten miles away. His grandparents lived right on the lake and had something that Kym loved almost as much as he loved the lake: A sunfish sailboat.  Every chance he got, he’d sneak away to his beloved lake. He taught himself to sail and has been sailing ever since.

Captain Ketcham is no day sailor. He received his USCG Captain’s license in the early ’90s and has sailed in Tahiti and all over the Caribbean. “It’s my great fortune to have sailed many romantic island destinations,” he says, “I’ve faced and navigated nearly every sailing scenario out there, and my priority is simple: Fun and Safety.” For six years he lived a life most of us only dream about – living on his boat, sailing up and down the Eastern Seaboard in a yearly ritual: Summers in Vermont, winters in West Palm Beach.

After decades of sailing, Kym sold his sailboat and came home to help take care of the family farm in Hinesburg.  “I’d heard about this wonderful nonprofit that has been around for six years, who takes people with cancer out on the lake,” he said, “And I know from experience because cancer has touched my family with my father and brother both being survivors, that being out on the lake with the sun, wind, and waves is so uplifting and healthy. I wanted to help people with cancer go out and enjoy that, so this opportunity is very special to me.”

A favorite captain of our guests, Kym has a reputation for being a blast to be with. Guest Greg L. said, “Thank you Healing Winds! Kym was extraordinary. Best day of the summer! A few more days like this one, and “cure” would be the word of the day!”

Captain Ketcham is eager to begin taking guests out on Gypsy Wind, a vessel donated to Healing Winds in 2017. Crew training has already begun!

If you are interested in a crew or captain opportunity with Healing Winds, you may go to our website to volunteer www.HWVT.org or email us at CaptainKetch@hwvt.org

Up next: An interview with Captain Ketcham, answering all your questions!

Please email all questions to info@HWVT.org.


Sail-a-bration 2019

Sail-a-bration 2019

2019 Sailing Season Kickoff Party


3rd Annual Sail-a-bration

This year’s event was held and ArtsRiot in Burlington, Vermont. With over 250 people in attendance, Healing Winds Vermont raised over $22,000. That is in no small part to a special, generous donor and the magic that is Josie Leavitt, our emcee for the night!

Karen Newman took us through what it was like for her to be battling cancer while competing as a world-class athelete in Denmark.

Kathie Weibust was recognized as a dedicated volunteer and 2-time nominee of our mission sails.

The Phil Abair Band kept everyone dancing all night, the food was a huge hit and most of all, we were successful in our efforts to spread the HWVT word!