Spike Lobdell, NESS president, founder of New England Science and Sailing (NESS), was named the 2016 winner of the Robert W. Crawford Achievement Prize by the National Recreation Foundation.
| Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
July 20, 2016 05:33PM
By Brooke Constance White
Sun staff writer
STONINGTON — The National Recreation Foundation recently announced that Spike Lobdell, founder and president of New England Science and Sailing (NESS), is the 2016 winner of the Robert W. Crawford Achievement Prize in recognition of his service to New England youth.
Crawford spent 60 years serving others as the Commissioner of Recreation in Philadelphia and as Executive Director of the foundation. As the Commissioner, he established a national model for local governments’ provision of recreational services for all and was recognized internationally for his creativity and innovative ideas.
Since founding NESS in 2004, Lobdell has spent the last 12 years devoting himself to developing the organization’s programs to link STEM-based education to water-based activities and providing boating opportunities to at-risk youth. The success of NESS has made it one of the most successful community sailing programs in the country. He is a full-time volunteer and has never received any compensation for his work with the organization.
The foundation is devoted to enhancing the role of recreation to improve the quality of life for youth, which is right in line with the mission of NESS, Lobdell said.
“We’ve been very fortunate to receive grants from them in the past and I’m very honored that one of their trustees nominated me for this award as it’s very competitive,” he said. “As president, this is a personal honor but I wouldn’t have won the award if we didn’t have such a great team here that’s dedicated to our mission.”
Along with the award, the nonprofit will also be receiving a $50,000 contribution that will be allocated for scholarships for students.
“We’ll be able to invest that money into getting even more kids out on the water,” Lobdell said. “The award is nice but what’s even better is the donation that will help us to keep going.”
As a year-round educational organization, NESS served nearly 5,000 students last year, with more than half of them coming from low-income communities and receiving scholarships or other financial aid enabling them to participate.
When it first started, NESS operated out of an abandoned lobster processing facility in Stonington Borough and has since expanded to seven locations in southeastern New England.
“It’s not just science and sailing that we’re teaching, we’re integrating with their school curriculum and bringing it to a classroom without walls,” Lobdell said. “We’re fostering teamwork and leadership skills so kids who have never really been given many chances come off the water saying ‘I can do this.’”