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
Karen Newman & WCAX

Karen Newman & WCAX

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Hundreds of thousands of people are diagnosed with cancer every year across the country. Which is why a local cancer survivor decided to launch a program allowing those battling the disease to set sail and temporarily leave their worries behind.

Healing Winds started in 2014 as a kind of therapy for cancer patients. People climb aboard a sailboat to create memories with loved ones. They set off from the Burlington Waterfront three times a day, six days a week.

Being out on the waters of Lake Champlain is a chance for cancer patients like Karen Newman to leave their worries on land.

“To leave cancer and all the treatments behind for a moment changes your life,” Newman said.

This isn’t Newman’s first time with Healing Winds, and it’s not her first round of cancer. We first introduced you to her back in 2016 when she was in remission from metastatic stage 4 breast cancer. They found tumors in her lumbar spine and in her pelvis.

“You can only imagine how devastating that news was,” Newman said.

For the second time, her cancer is back in the same spot and doctors tell her it’s terminal. Newman says to be on the boat is about being in the moment and celebrating life with her family and loved ones.

That’s all part of the mission of Healing Winds Vermont, and something Newman’s oncologist, Dr. Kim Dittus, supports.

“This gives patients the opportunity to take back some control in a situation where they don’t have a lot of control,” Dittus said.

Grabbing the helm allows cancer patients to steer off into Lake Champlain, leaving them with just the open water.

To take part, patients are nominated to Healing Winds and they don’t even have to live in Vermont. The boat ride is free and allows for patients to bring up to 10 family members and friends. The only reason the organization would deny a person is if they are currently in remission or don’t have cancer.

“It really gives you an opportunity to cast off the lines and be present on this vessel. And you really leave everything ashore,”.

The ride is a memory that Newman’s family says they will remember long after she’s gone.

“It really plants seeds of hope, and that’s so important, and the legacy of love lives on,” Newman said.

“The smiles on everybody’s faces– it’s something that I will always remember,” said Steven Stetson, Newman’s brother,



Healing Winds Vermont on CCTV

In this episode, you’ll learn a little backstory on Healing Winds Vermont. Why it’s important to remember this org is not about ONE PERSON, it’s about serving cancer patients and everyone who loves and cares for them.

WATCH ON TV : * You can watch this program on Channel 17/ Town Meeting Television, on Comcast Cable and Burlington Telecom at the following times:

1 Wednesday December 20, 5:25 PM
2 Thursday December 21, 7:00 PM
3 Tuesday December 26, 1:00 PM
4 Tuesday January  2, 1:00 PM
5 Tuesday January  9, 1:00 PM




Donation of New Vessel

Donation of New Vessel

Donation of New Vessel Gypsy Wind

This May Healing Winds received an incredibly generous donation of a 39 foot O’Day vessel appropriately named Gypsy Wind. On May 20th, Founder, Suzanne Johnson and a group of dedicated Healing Winds crew members journeyed to Pilot’s Point, in Westbrook, CT, to deliver Gypsy Wind to her new home on Lake Champlain. The donation of this vessel will allow us to expand our mission and grow our capacity to make a difference in in the lives of those being challenged by cancer – one sail at a time!

Follow Gypsy Wind’s journey to Lake Champlain here:

Leaving Pilot’s Point!

Maiden Voyage from New Home at Burlington Community Boathouse

Gypsy Wind’s First Guest Sail!