O’Neill Sea Odyssey’s unique program brings ocean education to people with special needs
With his parents, Tom and Judy Webster, Adam, born with special needs, loved being out on the water onboard the family’s small sailboat. With Adam’s passing at the age of 22 in 1999, O’Neill Sea Odyssey developed the Adam Webster Fund in collaboration with Tom and Judy. The idea was to fund educational experiences with the Sea Odyssey program for individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities. Since its founding in 1996, the O’Neill Sea Odyssey has reached more than 117,0000 students at a critical point in life, providing them with the opportunity to learn about our ocean ecosystem.
Adam Webster was a young boy who loved dolphins, the beach, and being out on the water.
The Adam Webster Fund itself has developed customized education plans for each student with special needs and accompanying parent who attends the program.
Up until COVID, the program had been able to sustain itself, with four to six classes per year hosting an average of 60 students. The pandemic, though, interrupted that work. Sea Odyssey has not been able to fundraise and serve this segment of our population during the COVID pandemic. Now, we begin the process to put the program back in full operation.
Our goal is to once again serve 60 students across four groups this year, – but without new support there is a chance we won’t be able to do it. As part of that push, we have partnered with Lookout Santa Cruz. For two weeks, from mid-September into October, Lookout and O’Neill Sea Odyssey have partnered to create a double giveback program. If you buy a new Lookout Membership below, Lookout will donate 10% of the purchase price to Sea Odyssey’s Adam Webster fund. It’s a “double giveback” because The Sea Odyssey has found donors who will enthusiastically match your support for this vital program.
This year marks Adam’s 45th birthday. In honor of his memory, OSO is raising funds and the resources necessary to serve the special needs community. The fund celebrates the authentic and stimulating experience the OSO ocean program provided Adam Webster while sailing, and that it has provided the same to many others. The opportunity to get out on the water not only provides academic opportunities, but creates empowering moments for social connection and enrichment.
This program is part of O’Neill Sea Odyssey’s wider vision to eliminate obstacles and to open doors that allow every person access to the rich environmental resources in our backyard, regardless of physical, social, intellectual and emotional barriers. It’s often hard to tell what experience will create a new learning opportunity and intellectual or social milestone in an individual’s journey. That’s part of the magic of OSO – every person leaves with their own unique memory of the program. In 2009, O’Neill Sea Odyssey received the Special Parents Information Network’s “Community Spinners” Award, acknowledging the efforts to serve a traditionally overlooked segment of our population.
Overall, O’Neill Sea Odyssey takes groups of students – 5,000 annually – out on the water and provides them with the opportunity to learn about marine biology and marine ecology onboard a catamaran on the waters of the Monterey Bay. Traditionally serving classes of students from Santa Cruz, Monterey and Santa Clara counties, the Sea Odyssey allows students to earn their field trip by planning and implementing a community service project.
“It has been an absolute pleasure working with students, teachers, aides, and parents from Watsonville High School, San Lorenzo High School, Cabrillo College, and the Santa Cruz County Office of Special Education!” stated OSO’s Executive Director Tracey Weiss. “We know that the ocean can inspire us all, and our vision is to inspire these students to explore the basics of marine conservation, learn about the environment around them, and attend a one-of-a-kind educational experience during a pivotal age in their development.”
Tracey Weiss, Executive Director