From L to R: TRR Counselor, Ali; TRR Founders Heather and Matt Alt; Cornerstone Charter Founder Jay Taylor
Outside an old family cabin tucked in the mountains of Idaho, Jay Taylor learned to ski and wakeboard on the lake. That’s where his love for the water was born.
In 2022, he turned his passion into a way to help others by obtaining his captain’s license and starting the nonprofit, Cornerstone Charter, in Charleston, South Carolina.
“[Cornerstone Charter] exists to provide a fun day on the water for children and families going through a difficult time,” Taylor said, adding this includes those battling health conditions, people with special needs, and children in foster care.
“I wanted to use my time [off work], talent [as a boat captain], and treasure [a boat] to bless others in something that I have always enjoyed,” Taylor continued. He especially aims to help children who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to go for a boat ride to find dolphins or explore beaches to dig for shark teeth.
“There's just a certain peace and joy that you always find out on the water. Regardless of what you're battling, it's easier to forget about it out there,” Taylor described. “I knew other families could benefit from that.”
After launching Cornerstone Charter, he reached out to help with multiple organizations in the Charleston area, including Three Rivers Respite.
Through the nonprofits’ partnership, Three Rivers Respite was able to add boating to their camp itinerary for both middle school girls and elementary boys in foster care this summer.
On two separate occasions, Taylor picked the groups up at the marina and headed out through Bohicket Creek to Seabrook Island’s beaches and Botany Bay. Then, they spent several hours enjoying beach games, like a beanbag toss and bocce ball, playing on the tube, and swimming in the ocean before returning to camp at Three Rivers Respite.
However, one of the middle school girls was shy and barely agreed to board to boat. About 30 minutes into cruising down the waterways, she started to grin and laugh with the other girls. Once Taylor anchored the boat, the middle schooler jumped off the front to swim in the ocean.
“It was really cool to see her make that shift,” Taylor said. “You could see all her reservations were completely gone. She totally came out of her shell and had a lot of fun with the other girls.”
When Taylor took Three Rivers Respite’s group of elementary boys on the water, it was a new experience for most of them.
“I think only one of the six [boys] had ever been on a boat. That was their first boat ride,” Taylor said. “This is exactly why we exist; these kids have never had this opportunity. It's really cool to be able to give that to them.”
The two trips with Three Rivers Respite’s campers were among 13 trips that Taylor offered for free between April and September. He serves as an unpaid volunteer with Cornerstone Charter.
To help pay for the costs of these trips, Taylor offers a traditional charter service for those not eligible to be sponsored. For every group that books a paid trip with him, Taylor gives a trip to a sponsored group.
This enables him to keep giving to organizations like Three Rivers Respite, whose partnership he views as a “win-win.”
“Three Rivers Respite already offers an amazing, fun day for these kids and Cornerstone Charter is just a way to make that even more fun and have another event on the itinerary,” Taylor said.
“This is just an opportunity to be around these children, even if it's only for two or three hours. I want to make a positive impact on their life and provide an experience that they may remember for a long time. It’s all about the smiles and laughs!”