For the first summer in nearly 50 years, Aspen’s lone sailing program is navigating the waters without its leader at the helm.
Don Sheeley, a longtime Aspen local who died in January, started a children’s sailing school on the shores of Ruedi Reservoir in 1971.
In honor of Sheeley and his contributions to the community, which extend well beyond his aquatic endeavors, the city of Aspen on July 10 passed a proclamation to rename its sailing program the Don Sheeley Sailing School.
In a full-circle series of events, two of Sheeley’s former students — his daughter, Courtney Wyckoff, and Taylor Hale — now direct the sailing program, which the city Parks and Recreation Department has managed since the school’s inception.
Hale, who first joined the program as a child in the early 1990s, said leading the school after Sheeley is “one of the highest honors of my life.”
“Don Sheeley was just a really special, unique, stand-out guy. He made all the difference for so many kids in this valley, myself included,” Hale said. “He was really a pillar of the community.”
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Without Sheeley at the reservoir, Hale seeks to emulate his predecessor’s teaching style, among other traits.
“Don’s whole philosophy, which I completely agree with, is you’ll learn it by doing it,” he said. “He always made us (students) feel that he trusted us.”
Wyckoff echoed Hale’s sentiment and said, “We (as students) all really appreciated it.”
“It wasn’t like a coach yelling at you. It was trial and error. We learned by doing,” Wyckoff said. “Through that, I think it was a lot more rewarding than someone holding your hand throughout.”
Hale said Sheeley’s style of teaching…
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