Seabourn Odyssey captain, crew contribute to charity for children with special needs

The large "piggy bank" aboard the Seabourn Odyssey

The large “piggy bank” aboard the Seabourn Odyssey

ABOARD THE SEABOURN ODYSSEY – The first time I saw it, I thought it might be a child’s toy. It looked like a tiny bus that a child might sit on. But the top of the wooden contraption had a slot like a piggy bank.

That’s exactly what it was – a big piggy bank. With an unusual story behind it.

“It’s a wonderful organization,” Seabourn Odyssey Captain Mark Dexter says. “I’m a member of it because I support what it does.”

Called the Lord’s Taverners, the group has a motto of “Giving young people, particularly those with special needs, a sporting chance.”

The group was founded in 1950 in London by a group of actors – including Lawrence Olivier, Jack Hawkins, Trevor Howard and Richard Attenborough. The men enjoyed a pint or two while watching cricket from the Tavern Pub at Lord’s Cricket Ground. Prince Philip himself is the club’s Patron and Twelfth Man.

For those who aren’t familiar with the popular British pastime of cricket, the Twelfth Man on a cricket team is the standby player.

“We started out just with cricket but now we have many sports,” Captain Dexter says. “We want every child to be able to play some kind of sport.”

Seabourn Odyssey Captain Mark Dexter is a member of the Lord's Taverners

Seabourn Odyssey Captain Mark Dexter is a member of the Lord’s Taverners

Among its many philanthropic activities, the Lord’s Taverners supplies specially adapted minibuses and sports wheelchairs, as well as sports equipment for youngsters with disabilities.  The group also funds hydrotherapy pools, swimming pool hoists, specially adapted canoes and youth competitions for disadvantaged children and children with special needs.

“We envisage a future where all young people, irrespective of background and ability, have the everyday opportunity to play cricket and enjoy other sports and physical activities to the benefit of their self-esteem, health, education and future socio-economic potential,” as stated in the Lord’s Taverners goals.

By the end of the 2012 cricket season, the group had delivered its 1,000th minibus. Last year, the crew of the Odyssey cruise ship had their own fundraiser. “We did it with an auction of promises, throwing wet sponges at senior officers, a jumble sale, a wheel of misfortune and other exciting events,” Captain Dexter says.

For his part, the captain offered a dinner for two with him aboard the ship. “Someone bid $200 to have dinner with me. Can you imagine?” he asks with a laugh.

The Lord's Taverners provides buses, wheelchairs and special sports equipment for young people with disabilities

The Lord’s Taverners provides buses, wheelchairs and special sports equipment for young people with disabilities

The ship fundraiser brought in a whopping $5,000. As for that wooden bus waiting in Seabourn Square aboard the Odyssey, Captain Dexter says he didn’t expect something so ornate or large.

“I had a photo of one of the buses and I gave it to the ship’s carpenter to see if he could make me a little money box. That wonderful bus box is what he made.”

As a sign above the bus notes, “This bus is for the collection of any unwanted currencies you may have and wish to donate to the Captain’s Charity which will go towards our sponsored mini bus.”

“Every child should be able to play sports,” Captain Dexter says, adding that the goal resonates with all Odyssey crewmembers because special needs children are, sadly, a part of every culture.

“I have a multi-national crew,” he says. “They can identify with children with special needs no matter what country they call home.”

For more information: Contact the Lord’s Taverners at www.lordstaverners.org

Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch

About Jackie

Jackie Sheckler Finch fell in love with cruising 35 years ago when she rode the magnificent Mississippi Queen riverboat in its inaugural 1976 voyage. A newspaper reporter, photographer and travel writer, Jackie has cruised on large and small vessels on numerous rivers and oceans. Read more...

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