Wake The World: Giving back and getting involved

Monday, 8am, NCWSA alumni David Huisman pulled up to the lake. There are 20 boats, and dozens of volunteers already out there. What’s going on? 84 at risk children, refugees, and foster children are about to come and have “the best day of their lives”

Founded by Greg Hogden in 2008, and today’s event organized by Scott Rachel, Wake the World is an NPO that brings a day of fun and smiles to less fortunate children. David Huisman (WMU), works for Bethany Christian Services as a social worker. Last year, they started their partnership with Wake The World-Michigan to bring the children in their care a new experience and a great day on the water.

Think about all the fun memories made at the lake. Most of the kids served would have never had that chance. People take a day off work,

Kelly Potts (MSU) and her family volunteer annually at Wake The World-West Michigan

and bring their most expensive toys to give back to the community. Michigan State alumni Kelly Potts was there with her whole family. Her family heard about it through the “Malibu Crew” online forum and knew this was something they wanted to be a part of, and have been for 2 years. The reason for the success of this program lies in the fact that all the volunteers are so passionate. They all love boating, being on the lake, and sharing watersports with others.

This year was one of the best turnouts yet, according to Scott. “We had 84 kids, and probably half of them got up on one or more of skis, wakesurfs, kneeboards or wakeboards.” NCWSA alum Huisman and Potts shared a boat. They were both president of their school’s water ski team, and still highly involved, and strong advocates for waterskiing. While they tried not to force skiing on the kids, it seemed to happen naturally. Huisman said some of these kids had never seen a boat, others couldn’t swim and we’re terrified of the water. While some were content with just a quick zip around the lake, David and Kelly say they got almost all their riders up. They started with tubing, but found themselves getting kids up on all sorts of equipment, and most liked the challenge of the sports versus tubing. “One kid was scared of the water, started on inflatable ski trainers, and was doing 180’s by lunch!” The program is great because it helps these kids be comfortable facing fears, encourage them to try new things, and keep trying when they fail, and learn to trust others.

Kelly said her favorite part was talking to two recently adopted kids from the Congo who did not yet speak much English. She had the opportunity to use her French minor and talk to the older kid about the day and water sports in general, after they had spent the day on her parent’s boat. They got to smiling and laughing and once they left, Kelly’s parents told her that it was the first time he had laughed that day because he was finally able to talk to someone and talk about the day and moving and everything. It made the whole experience so much more important.

2 weeks later, University of Wisconsin-Madison’s team also got involved. Bringing their boat and 2 students, President Jack Ralph and team member Taylor Palmby also had the opportunity to work with kids in watersports. In it’s second year, Wake the World-Madison was scheduled to be held on the team’s home site, Lake Minona, but was changed to Lake Mendota due to flooding. While the weather and conditions weren’t perfect, they were still able to provide a perfect day for many kids.

UW-Madison team teaches new skiers. Photos by CJB Photography
UW-Madison athletes teach Wake The World participants how to ski. Photo by CJB Photography

With 7 boats and about 25 participants, the UW team got all 6 of their riders up on short line skiing, and took everyone tubing after. For many kids, it was the highlight of their summer. One participant had been there the previous year, and was so excited, before even getting on the boat! Taylor loved working with the kids and “giving them a day not to worry about their home life.” Both students enjoyed bring smiles and good times. Taylor first got involved with waterskiing at age 5 at a “Learn To Ski” clinic by her former show ski team (Rock Aqua). She remembers trying it, then begging her mom to let her join. Since, she’s had so many great experiences, such as 3 trips to represent USA in China, and participating in a world record pyramid. Taylor was excited to give back in a similar way. Jack loved having his team present and giving back to the community. It paid off, as they were able to connect their wakeboard portion of the team to an 2017 X-Star owner who wants to help out!

Kelly, David, Jack and Taylor all hope to be at the event next year. David already says he plans on bringing some of the older kids out to the WMU team lake. Kelly hopes that even more college teams and recent alum will get involved, noting it’s important for the kids to see younger faces on the water, to connect with them better, and be a little more comfortable trying the sport. As well, the more volunteers, the more kids they can invite!

Upcoming 2017 Dates:

August 7, 2017       WTW Arkansas Adaptive

August 7, 2017      WTW Central Oregon

August 7, 2017        WTW Ohio

August 8, 2017       WTW Arkansas

August 8, 2017     WTW Santium, OR

August 12, 2017    WTW Lake Anna

August 16, 2017      WTW Chesapeake Bay

August 17, 2017      WTW Colorado

August  19, 2017     WTW Tennessee

September 2017      WTW South Carolina

Sept. 13, 2017        WTW Ft. Worth

Sept. 16, 2017         WTW Arizona

Oct. 8, 2017           WTW Lake Mead, NV

Oct.  2017            Lake Love

                            WTW Jordan Lake, NC

                             WTW Florida

                             WTW Lake Martin, AL

                             WTW New Mexico                  

                              WTW Mississippi

                             WTW Virginia- Lake Gaston         

                              WTW Taiwan

                             WTW Louisiana

                              WTW Steamboat Springs

                              WTW Oklahoma

                              WTW Utah

                              WTW San Bernard TX

                              WTW Hyco Lake, NC


Want to get involved? Click Here for their website and info on how to volunteer.




Molly Voska

Former Marketing Director of Western Michigan Waterski, MCWSA Membership and NCWSA Marketing. #TeamMidwest