By Breeana Greenberg
A new nonprofit with a mission to offer ocean freedom for special-needs kids has launched out of the Dana Point Harbor.
Founder Mark Jensen created Ocean Enabled after his friend’s daughter, Sophia, was born with cerebral palsy. The daughter’s aunt, Cindy Brooks, made it her mission to ensure that Sophia had the chance to experience everything she could.
“She changed her whole life around making sure Sophia had chances at everything,” Jensen said of Brooks. “She spent every weekend with her.”
When Sophia was an infant, Brooks called Jensen to ask if the family could take her out on his boat.
“She was trying to find things that she could do; she took her horseback riding, different stuff,” Jensen said. “So, we took her out on the boat, and she loved it. … We took her maybe twice a month probably out on the boat.”
Out on the water, Sophia holds her head up high, calling for Jensen to go faster and faster, Jensen said.
After Brooks died of cancer, Jensen founded Ocean Enabled in her honor in January 2021.
“The last thing I told Cindy was that I was going to keep doing this,” Jensen said.
To provide ocean adventures for more special-needs kids, Jensen asked Sophia’s mom to contact some of the other kids who ride the school bus with her to see if they’d be interested in a harbor cruise.
Ocean Enabled provides a variety of ocean adventure experiences tailored to the child and family’s interests, from fishing to whale watching and cruising along the Dana Point Harbor.
“We take special-needs kids out on the ocean, or just in the harbor, depending on what they want to do, their family wants to do, so we do specialized little cruises for the kid, one family at a time,” Jensen said.
“Sometimes, they want to stay in the harbor if they get seasick,” Jensen continued. “But we’ll go fishing, we can run to Newport for lunch, we can go to Oceanside, whatever they want to do; it just depends on the child.”
Seeing kids experience marine life and the thrill of being out on the open ocean for the first time has brought Jensen joy.
“The thing is that the kids just go nuts when they see a pelican or anything,” Jensen said. “They just smile. So, that’s pretty much why I do it.”
Jensen said his hope is to make adventures out on the open ocean accessible to all and is dedicated in memory of Brooks.
More information about the nonprofit and how to book an ocean adventure can be found at ocean-enabled.com.
Breeana Greenberg is the city reporter for the Dana Point Times. She graduated from Chapman University with a bachelor of arts degree in English. Before joining Picket Fence Media, she worked as a freelance reporter with the Laguna Beach Independent. Breeana can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org