Freedom Boat Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters join forces for youth-mentoring group


Freedom Boat Club is partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America to raise awareness and funds for the 111-year-old organization that pairs at-risk youths with mentors. It’s the first time in the franchisor’s 26-year history that the club’s corporate ownership and franchise owners/operators are working together in a cause-marketing program and platform.

The campaign theme “Boating Big! All Aboard for the Littles,” features a fundraising initiative for BBBS and a special even in cooperation with local BBBS affiliates. A nationwide “All on Deck” boating party will take place this month featuring feature boat rides for BBBS mentors, also known as “bigs,” and their mentees, or “littles,” that will include lunch and entertainment.

Locally, the Freedom Boat Club Jacksonville and St. Augustine, will hold their “All on Deck” party on May 21. The group will launch boats from Julington Creek and be motored to Green Cove Springs, where they will dock at the springs and picnic, have a chance to explore the area and play on the playground. Participants will then re-board the boat for a short trip up Black Creek and return to the dock at Julington Creek.

Lisa Almeida, co-owner of Freedom Boat Club Jacksonville and St. Augustine, said that Freedom Boat Club chose BBBS as its corporate charity entity with the idea of wanting to get kids on a boat who might never have the chance. The local franchise previously has done charity boat rides on its own with organizations such as Community Hospice of Northeast Florida, the Daniel Kids Foundation and Father’s Harbor Academy.

“We love giving people the opportunity, especially kids, to get out on the water when they may not have had the chance before,” Almeida said.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida CEO Warren Grymes echoed that sentiment.

“A lot of our kids have never been out on the water and this gives them that opportunity to do something a little bit different, and that’s kind of the way that it is for a lot of our children,” he said. “We have kids living 12 miles from Jacksonville Beach and have never been there – never seen the ocean, so similarly, here we have this beautiful river running right through our city that many of these kids will have seen coming from the north side of town, and they’ve really never had the opportunity to go on a boat and experience what life is like on the water. It’s something that many of us who are in a little bit better position just simply take for granted.”

Grymes said he is thankful for the boat club’s willingness to be involved with the campaign, acknowledging that they have a number of volunteers who are helping to facilitate the event that are taking time out of their weekend.

“It’s one more great testament to me of a giving community that we live in,” he said. “These folks are willing to take time out of their weekend to do something for kids who have never experienced what these folks experience on a regular basis, so I think it’s just tremendous.”

Freedom Boat Club is raising funds for BBBS through the month of May. Donations may be made at