Ocean Mind’s inescapable link to the coast and to beaches and waves makes it difficult not to draw parallels with being ‘caught inside’ when you consider the last two years.
Like all not for profit organisations, the surf-therapy youth care organisation has been forced to negotiate repeated COVID waves to the head, doggedly paddling onward through the endless lockdown surf in search of calmer waters where it can thrive instead of survive.
Somehow, even when real-life surf sessions have not been possible, Ocean Mind has found ways to remain connected to the youths of Geelong and Victoria’s west coast who need them. And now, the organisation is looking to achieve its long-held dream to expand, having secured a second van to carry equipment to a new location, with further plans to set up interstate, such as to South Australia where surf-based therapy is not yet common.
Importantly, founder Rachael Parker has also been working closely with researchers from Deakin University to bring robust and scientifically valid measurement to the work Ocean Mind does. Future funding in the modern not for profit landscape relies heavily on evidence-based credibility.
Rachael still needs to take a moment when she stops to consider Ocean Mind’s growth. “It’s blown me away,” she said. “I always saw it was going to be a little side project. I always wanted it to be a job but thought it would be a passion project, so to see where it is now. We have a team of staff behind it saying we can do this, we are passionate about it and let’s make a real difference in the service system. It is absolutely beyond what I ever would have dreamed.”
Rachael emphasises that the Newsboys Foundation has played a central role in Ocean Mind’s success. In fact, without sage advice of Newsboys CEO Sandy Shaw early on, the organisation’s surfboards may well be gathering dust in a garage somewhere.
“We were connected from the very first year of Ocean Mind,” Rachel recalled. “Sandy didn’t just fob me off as a tiny little organisation that they wouldn’t support. Instead, she told me what I needed to do, and what was required to get to a place where Newsboys could support us. That guidance and advice got us to a place where we could then be worthy of support.”
The other vital assistance Newsboys has provided Ocean Minds over the organisation’s five years’ of beachcraft is a connection to other powerful supporters.
“Sandy has put us into so many positive and important places,” Rachael said. “It was Newsboys who introduced us to the Gruppetto Fund, and also to Social Ventures Partners Melbourne. SVP has super charged our Board and the governance piece around what we do and how to quantify it. They’re an amazing team and just so helpful with their advice and skills.”
The Gruppetto Fund is dedicated to supporting organisations that use sport, education or the arts to assist young people to break the cycle of disadvantage and achieve their potential. Born from a love of cycling and an admiration for how cyclists work hard to get everybody across a finish line, founder and chair Mark Duncan said he formed a partnership with Newsboys after meeting Sandy and being so impressed by her knowledge of the philanthropic space and the various organisations doing work across Victoria. Having mastered running events, networking and raising money, the Gruppetto Fund decided to partner with Newsboys for recommendations on how to best spend their funds.
“We went to Newsboys because we wanted that expertise and experience in making sure that our money would be used effectively. The science and results behind the Ocean Mind program meant it was irresistible.”Mark Duncan, Gruppetto Fund
“When we were discussing who we wanted to support this year, Sandy said there was an organisation called Ocean Mind and the work they are doing is just fantastic,” Mark said. “As a kid growing up, my sports were always water based so I loved the idea of a surfing program. Thematically, I was attracted and drawn to it but when I looked at the science and results they were generating from their work, I found it too compelling to walk past. When you look at the idea of what they’re doing and the science that backs their results, how could you not support it? As we got to meet Rachael as well, we understood that the program is in really good hands and has amazing potential.”
Ocean Mind chair Sean O’Reilly said that such introductions had been invaluable for his organisation. “From my point of view, Sandy has been a really strong supporter of Rachael, in particular, and the Ocean Mind story. She’s connected us to SVP, the Gruppetto Fund and other important people we’ve had relationships with.
“Obviously, we value Newsboys’ funding but more than that, I think we value their ability to connect us and help us through. I mean, times haven’t been easy for philanthropists over the last 12 or 18 months and I know Newsboys have really made an effort to support Ocean Mind through that period, even when they’ve maybe had to make some tough decisions themselves. We really recognise that support.”