Walk on Water

Faith and fun in the summertime.

Learning how to wakeboard, surf and kneeboard while creating relationships and memories out on the water—these activities just scratch the surface of what Walk on Water (WOW) is all about. This local Christian organization uses watersports and other activities as a way for youth to build relationships with peers and adults, and learn values like respect, integrity and honesty.

“What God put on my heart was that kids need other adults in their lives in addition to their parents,” says Debbie Kraft, founder and president of WOW. Kraft’s vision of youth having adults to look up to and trust was 10 years in the making before WOW was born.

The organization started small, with 10 kids and four adults on a waterfront near Kraft’s home in Victoria. The group gathered during the summer to have fun out on the lake, discuss Bible passages and even have campfires. “We’d be [there] from four o’clock, sometimes till 10 o’clock at night hanging out with the kids,” she says.
Since summer 1999, WOW has made quite a splash in surrounding communities as an estimated 800 youth have participated at local lakes. This summer includes outings in Plymouth, Minnetonka, Chanhassen, Shorewood and Excelsior.
From June to August, youth (from age 10 to early 20s) meet once a week with others around their age at a host family’s home. “We usually have five to seven adults that work with about 12 to 15 kids,” Kraft says. The day begins with prayer and a faith lesson. Kids spend a little over two hours out on the lake learning a watersport they’re interested in, like barefoot waterskiing or slalom.

There are “so many life lessons that happen out on the water,” Kraft says. From acknowledging fear to trusting a mentor, WOW applies lessons from watersports to faith—listening to and trusting God. WOW Wake also spends time on a service project, which has recently focused on helping the homeless. Youngsters get the chance to put together care packages with items like shampoo and toothpaste. Kraft describes it as a way for kids “to get in touch with the needs in their community,” she says, and have compassion for others.

While it’s the largest program, WOW Wake isn’t the only activity the organization offers. WOW Fish gives kids the chance enjoy peaceful, one-on-one time with a grown-up while fishing. “It’s just one or two kids, with one or two adults,” Kraft says. A free program that began last summer, WOW Fish is a way for quieter youth to connect with others.

WOW Water focuses on nature, from lake water quality to the aquatic life that inhabits it. “[It’s] about helping kids and other people see what they can do to restore [and] preserve our natural resource of water,” Kraft says.

WOW registration doesn’t close until all groups are filled, and it takes a lot of helping hands. An average summer has about 40 volunteers, including high school and college mentors. Kraft encourages families interested in hosting—mostly those with some waterfront to share—to get in touch at walkonh2o.org. Getting the chance to build relationships with kids? For many lakeside families, it’s the perfect way to spend a summer.