The 2016 SpinSheet PropTalk Volunteer of the Year

As a rule, people who give a lot of their time back to the community aren’t prone to talking about themselves. Active volunteers don’t have the spare hours to write long rants on Facebook or warm up too many barstools. They’re givers. They quietly just keep on giving… which may be why the word “unsung” often precedes the word “hero.”

As sailors surrounded by volunteer-run organizations, clubs, and charity events, we are privileged to find such generous people everywhere we go. The more we interact with them and interview them, the more of them we find. We think that’s worth celebrating, which is why we asked readers to nominate the first SpinSheet PropTalk Volunteer of the Year for 2016. After gathering a list of nominations through January, our staff members individually voted on exceptional volunteers. The winner for 2016 is Captain Aram Nersesian for donating his time and 60-foot schooner Heron to the Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health. 

You may remember Aram from an article Cindy Wallach wrote last fall, “Want To Make a Difference? Getting Children with Serious Illnesses and their Families on the Water.”  

I first encountered Aram a decade ago when he wrote a hilarious story for SpinSheet about losing his dinghy at anchor on a dark, stormy night and diving in to retrieve it. It doesn’t sound funny, but the parts about him stuffing himself into his wetsuit and then leaving a note at the nav station to say he wasn’t committing suicide but rather stupidly swimming for his dinghy remain, to this day, some of the funniest details to ever come through my inbox.

We’ve stayed in touch from time to time, as Capt. Aram has many times competed in the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. A few summers ago, I was at a big Fourth of July raftup. Someone I’d never met told a story about dragging anchor in a stormy Solomons cove and how a schooner skipper with a funny name came to his rescue. 

I asked if the rescuer was named Aram Nersesian. The poor guy telling the story didn’t know that I worked for SpinSheet and therefore had schooner friends—he thought I was some crazy mind-reader. He looked at me wild-eyed for a moment. “How on earth did you know his name?” he asked me. 

I shrugged and said, “How many schooner sailors in Solomons have a name like that?”

Last summer, I reconnected with Aram and asked if he’d write a local’s perspective of Solomons, which he did. He told me about his work with the Children’s Inn. Cindy agreed to sail down to the Patuxent River to hear about the program.

Aram and Cindy hit it off as expected. She and her 12-year-old son Zach went sailing on Heron with the captain and a couple of kids and families from the Children’s Inn. “Aram doesn’t want this story to be about him,” Cindy wrote, “but as of right now, he’s the only boat owner on the Chesapeake Bay donating his time to the families at the Children’s Inn.” 

When I told him about the Volunteer of the Year award, Aram said, “Thank you to your staff and the people who made the nominations for the honor. It is indeed an honor to be considered among what I’m sure was a large group of awesome volunteers who are helping in so many ways around the Bay.”

To thank Aram for his generosity as a sailor, we here at SpinSheet will make a donation to the Children’s Inn at NIH. If readers would like to do the same—or to donate your time and boat to children and families who really need some fresh air and a boat ride—contact Laura King at lking@mail.nih.gov or (301) 451-9454. Visit childrensinn.org for more.

Stay tuned to SpinSheet for volunteer opportunities on and along the water. Start considering candidates now for our Volunteer of the Year 2017. We will open nominations in December.