Sean Compston

“Journey to the end.

Finding Purpose on the Water: Sean Compston’s Journey with Adaptive Sailing

This month’s volunteer spotlight shines on Sean Compston, a dedicated sailing companion with the Adaptive Sailing Association of BC (ASABC). Sean’s story is one of both inspiration and loss, highlighting the power of volunteering to find connection and purpose.

For the past five years, Sean has been a mainstay at ASABC. His journey began with a personal experience – his brother’s spinal cord injury, diagnosed as Cauda Equina Syndrome. “That’s actually how I found sailing,” Sean shares. “I was looking for activities he could participate in after his injury. Initially, I went in there with the intention of finding something for him, but I ended up falling in love with volunteering.”

One day, feeling overwhelmed by his brother’s challenges, Sean went for a ride. “I knew I couldn’t change the situation,” he says, “but I wanted to do something positive.” As if by fate, he saw a sandwich board sign for ASABC. “I got off my bike and walked right in,” Sean recalls.

Sean already had a love for sailing. “We grew up around the water,” he explains. “I’d sailed as a kid at summer camp, in Calgary on a lake, even crewed a boat down to California.” But seeing his brother struggle after the injury, both physically and mentally, motivated Sean to take action.

“Sailing is a whole different world,” Sean says with a smile. “Being out there with the wind, without the sound of the motor, it’s a peaceful experience. For me, sailing is a really positive way to give back, but honestly, I sometimes get more out of it than the participants.” He pauses for a moment, then adds thoughtfully, “Being out on the water reminds me how lucky I am. These participants get a chance to escape for a few hours, something not everyone has the opportunity for. Take Lucy, for instance. Super cute kid who asks a thousand questions and got a crush on me. Her mom’s a nice lady too. But her brother comes on board, and they just don’t stop talking. They want to see the biggest boat, even if it means tipping us over! The joy they experience is pure, and being a part of that is really fulfilling.”

“Volunteering at ASABC gave me a deeper sense of how to connect with people,” Sean explains. “Having a brother with a disability gave me a head start, but it’s more than that. It’s about open-mindedness and creating a judgment-free space. We’re all on the water sharing some time together, a break from whatever’s on shore. Just go out and sail! That connection is invaluable, both for the community and for people with disabilities. We’re not defined by our limitations; we’re just two people enjoying a sail. It’s a beautiful thing, and I feel privileged to be a part of it.”

Sean sailing with a client at Jericho Beach
Sean sailing with a client at Jericho Beach

The variety of experiences adds another layer to the joy. “One day, I have Lucy chattering a mile a minute,” Sean laughs. “Then there’s another participant, I forget her name, who used to be a runway model in Italy and writes screenplays! You meet these incredible people with fascinating stories. You wouldn’t know their struggles on the street. Sharing time and hearing their stories creates a unique intimacy. Out on the water, everyone’s guard comes down. It’s refreshing.”

Sean’s passion for volunteering grew alongside his dedication to his brother. “It made the time I spent with him much more meaningful,” he reflects. “I witnessed his struggles after the injury, how it impacted our family, and the challenges people with disabilities face.”

The story takes a heartbreaking turn as Sean describes his brother’s passing:

“Sadly, I lost my brother shortly after his injury. We lived close by, and I often checked in on him. One night, I hadn’t heard from him, and something felt off. I found him unresponsive, and despite my efforts, he was gone.”

Despite the personal tragedy, Sean’s commitment to ASABC remains strong. “When you reached out for this feature,” he says, “it resonated deeply. It’s been five years since I joined ASABC, and volunteering allows me to connect with others facing similar challenges. It’s a reminder that there’s a supportive community out there, just as I experienced with my brother, and that’s something I want to continue being a part of.”

Sean’s story is a testament to the transformative power of volunteering. It’s a journey of resilience, dedication, and finding solace in helping others. Through ASABC, Sean continues to honor his brother’s memory and make a positive impact on the lives of participants.