Our Mission

Raise the Sail Foundation gives participants the opportunity to temporarily step away from their illnesses and escape with some maritime activity. Volunteer Captains take participants out on the open water. We provide therapeutic sails for senior citizens and women to help ease the physical and emotional burdens of cancer and other age-related ailments. Raise the Sail Foundation unites the Santa Cruz sailing community using Captains and their vessels to raise awareness, support volunteerism and promote the giving spirit of Santa Cruz County.

Our History

Over the past two decades, I’ve fallen in love with volunteering, using it as a release from the stress of balancing my sometimes hectic career and family life. I have experience with several organizations and particularly enjoy activism.

A couple of years ago, while I was searching for a volunteer position that would really hit home for me, I attended Grazing on the Green, a cancer benefit. There, I found the perfect fit—WomanCARE of Santa Cruz. This incredible non-profit provides a variety of support options for women in all stages of the cancer journey.

Cancer has touched my family and friends many times over my life, so I understood the particular issues these patients and families face. I began volunteering as soon as I could, providing housekeeping and childcare, driving clients to appointments, running errands, and more.

During these visits, I listened to personal stories and witnessed situations that made me want to provide more care. I knew there was something I could do, that I would love, through which I could create some joy. The process of healing is daunting, financially taxing, and scary. I also discovered these women had limited options for affordable social activities in and around Santa Cruz.

Water has been a huge part of my life since birth. I swam before I could walk and have been swimming ever since. I enjoy competing in open water challenges and have incorporated kayaking and sailing into my life over the past several years. Not long after my family and I began caretaking for a sailboat in the Santa Cruz Harbor, the idea of giving the experience of sailing to others came to mind.

As I was introduced to boat owners and fisherman on the docks, I pitched my idea. The reactions were overwhelmingly positive. So positive, in fact, I felt obligated to get started. I knew we could raise the bar on volunteerism at the Santa Cruz Harbor and Raise the Sail Foundation was created! Thanks to a NOLO legal book and my supportive family, I started the process of making this dream a reality. In a little less than a year, I received 501(c)(3) non-profit tax status. This was a very meaningful moment, which included an impromptu dance of joy in my kitchen.

During the journey to making Raise the Sail Foundation a reality, I was fortunate to meet two women who believed in both me and my idea. RTS needed a board of directors in order to get up and running, so I asked my dear friend Deena Pisano if she would help, and she swiftly agreed. Deena, who lives in San Diego and has ties to the San Diego Harbor, plans to eventually bring Raise the Sail Foundation to that area. Diane Jacobson sailed into my life while on a pleasure cruise in Santa Cruz. Diane is a career RN with over 20 years in trauma and senior care with Kaiser. I knew Diane would be a tremendous asset for RTS. Together, we fine-tuned the dream and set forth to make Raise the Sail Foundation a reality for our clients and volunteers. I am so proud of this foundation, the supporters we have found, and the work we are doing to serve Santa Cruz County and the beautiful humans who live here!

Raise the Sail Foundation is here to provide happiness and joy. Our volunteers are able to give clients an experience on the healing sea that is tailored to their needs and desires. From education on sea life and birds, to the mechanics of sailing and boat lingo, we are here to provide a temporary escape from the daily grind. We provide space for open minds, open hearts, and the opportunity to be on the open water!

Meet Our Team!

Natasha wants to solve all the world’s problems before sailing off in an Amel 52 to swim and play in exotic waters across the globe. While, of course, raising two brilliant children, being a fabulous wife, and bringing happiness and health to future generations. All in a day’s work!

A 1999 graduate of San Jose State, she began her career with Pacific Bell, now AT&T. Although a career in construction and engineering was not her plan at the time, almost two decades in this field have now flown by. Through AT&T, she was introduced to the Junior Achievement program and quickly became a mentor. Shortly after, she joined an external resource group called LEAGUE, supporting the LGBTQ community, of which she is still a member. Her interest in sports led her to roller derby where she skated, promoted LGBTQ rights, and spoke with youth in the community. Her passion for the water led her back to swimming and open-water competitions including Alcatraz to San Francisco and Angel Island to Tiberon. Wanting more water time, she also began kayaking, diving, and sailing, which continue to bring joy to her life. Volunteering for many causes and programs over the years, she fell in love with a non-profit dedicated to women. WomenCARE of Santa Cruz provides support services to women in all stages of the cancer journey.

Volunteering her time to assist these women with driving, housekeeping, childcare, and more. She became determined to find more ways to give back to the women she has met, and Raise the Sail was created.

A proud mother of two children, and spouse to her biggest supporter, Matt Elliott, she resides in Aptos, California.

Deena had been seeking opportunities that would offer her the chance to give back to women in need. When she and Natasha spoke about the idea for Raise the Sail, Deena knew it was a perfect fit. She didn’t think twice before signing on.

After spending more than 20 years in the financial industry, she chose to make a life change that would enrich her life. She took a leap of faith and started her own business. Five years later, she is not looking back! Deena is looking for the opportunity to use her resources & passion to make a difference.

Her passion to become an advocate for women came in 1999, after a personal experience that led her to volunteer with the Woman’s Haven in Modesto, CA for two years. Her time there showed her the simplest gesture can bring pure joy to women and their families.

Deena’s hope with Raise the Sail is that she can pay it forward, sharing the healing power of being on the water.

After serving our Country in the United States Navy, Diane went on to pursue a career in nursing. She combined her love of science with her compassionate nature and became a registered nurse in 1997. She has specialized in critical care - managing burn, trauma and transplant cases. Currently, she serves as a case manager for seniors with chronic conditions. As a member of the Ethics Committee at UCSF & the Wellness Committee at Kaiser Permanente, she has received several awards for excellence.

Diane also volunteers with the American Red Cross and the Disaster Readiness team at Kaiser Permanente. She has personally raised over $19,000 for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation by riding her bicycle (twice) from San Francisco to Los Angeles. In the fall and winter months she volunteers for the Family Giving Tree, collecting school supplies and Christmas gifts for children.

When asked to be a board member for Raise the Sail Foundation she jumped at the opportunity to volunteer for this cause. Throughout her career Diane has focused on fostering people's ability to engage in, enrich and empower their lives. Diane firmly believes that sailing can help strengthen these abilities and improve lives. The combination of community, sun, fresh air and the exhilaration of sailing are the perfect recipe for rejuvenation. Raise the Sail Foundation provides the opportunity to step away from worry and celebrate resilience and the power of the human spirit.

- Life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others -