As the boats headed out from Johnson Park to Lake Marble Falls, the smiles on the kids’ faces showed just how much they were looking forward to a day on the water. It was the first time many of the youths participating in the Skiin’ with the Galilean three-day event had even been on a boat, much less skis.
“For a lot of these kids, it’s a truly transformative experience,” said event director Todd Garrett. “These kids, many of them, have tough lives. So, a day out water skiing or just being towed behind a boat in a tube, it brings them so much joy.”
Volunteers also share a Gospel message each day of the Christian-based event, which is June 8-10 in Marble Falls.
“We want to give them hope as well,” Garrett added.
During the event, volunteers provide boat rides, water skiing, and other lake activities for the more than 360 participants. On Tuesday, the first day, volunteers hosted special-needs youths and adults. Wednesday and Thursday are for children in foster care and orphans.
Volunteers also cooked and served hundreds of meals. Participants get lunch and dinner. Everything is free, including a T-shirt to commemorate the event.
Garrett started Skiin’ with the Galilean about 21 years ago. Initially, it was held on the Pedernales River near Lake Travis. It moved to Marble Falls and Johnson Park about 15 years ago after drought conditions dropped the Pedernales River below a safe level.
“Marble Falls has been great to us,” Garrett said. “They’ve been so gracious and accommodating.”
The entire program is run by volunteers with no paid staff or even an office. Donations go back into the three-day events. Volunteers bring their own boats. Garrett said the Marble Falls event has about 18 boats and 80 volunteers.
Skiin’ with the Galilean will hold a second event on Lake Athens in Northeast Texas on June 22-24.
Chris Pitts of Austin began volunteering with the event five years ago. He helps cook and pitches in where needed. Volunteers set up the camp and outdoor kitchen area every morning and take it down at the end of the day.
Days are long and often stretch into the night, but Pitts looks forward to the event.
“It’s uplifting for me to be around all these great people,” he said. “And you see how the kids just love being out here.”
Volunteers and monetary support are always welcome. Visit the Skiin’ with the Galilean volunteer webpage for how to get involved.
“What started this was the thought of just combining the thrill of water sports with the Gospel of Jesus to make a special day for these kids,” Garrett said. “For them to come out, experience the joy, and hear a message of hope, it can make such a difference in their lives. It is transformative.”