Making a Difference: Local hero will win free sunset sail

A world shuttered because of a global pandemic. The ever-present threat of COVID-19. A country rocked by George Floyd’s death. A shaken economy. An uncertain future.

During times like these, more than one person may have fantasized about pulling out a device like a communicator from Star Trek and saying, “Beam me up, Scotty.”

Well, getting beamed up to a spaceship may not be feasible, but how about a relaxing, free sunset sail?

That is possible and will go to a lucky hero, courtesy of Layla Sailing, a sailing charter company based in Greenport. “We give people a chance to get away from it all, which is what I think people need right now,” said owner Liz Gillooly.

Layla Sailing is running a contest that will award a local hero during these stressful times with a free sail for a maximum of six people. Nomination forms may be filled out at

Ms. Gillooly said she has received inspiring nominations, and furnished examples: a woman who is a nurse and her husband, a police offer, who have had to deal with the anxiety of keeping their 2-year-old daughter safe; a woman who put herself through nursing school, saw her graduation ceremony canceled and went straight into working in a COVID-19 ward; several emergency room nurses at Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport; a retired police officer who helps neighbors by doing such things as bringing them groceries and making repairs.

These uplifting accounts are evidence that the worst of times can bring out the best in people.

“We’ve gotten so many amazing stories already,” said Ms. Gillooly, who lives in Orient. “It’s really interesting to see what everyone is going through and the bravery and the kindness that sort of pours out at times like this.”

The contest is open to anyone who can be in Greenport for departure at a date of their choosing within a year’s time.

Ms. Gillooly said she will work with two other people — her sister Liana Gillooly and her boyfriend Dan DiModugno — to vote for the top 10 stories of heroism. Then, from among those 10, a winner will be picked from a hat and announced on July 4.

“It’s hard to compare some of these stories,” she said. “They’re all so beautiful.”

So, what brought about the idea for this contest?

“Probably [like] a lot of other people, I was feeling super anxious during the whole COVID-19 shutdown and worried about my health and my parents and you know my business and all of that stuff and it was pretty paralyzing,” Ms. Gillooly said. “But at some point I realized that while it was kind of paralyzing for me, it was energizing or mobilizing for other people and I saw so many people who just sort of stepped up right away and were doing major things to help out their communities, and that inspired me and I started sewing masks for Stony Brook Hospital. I saw that they were asking for hand-sewn masks and I started doing that myself and it really helped me get through, you know, what was like a lot of anxiety. And so, I thought about all of the other people who inspired me to start doing stuff, and I wanted to honor them.”

Just under 40 entries had been received by Monday, said Ms. Gillooly.

What is the best thing about this contest?

“The best thing for me is just reading all these amazing stories that are coming in,” Ms. Gillooly said. “It really takes me out of my head and out of the news cycle and lets me focus on these incredible members of our community who have stepped up at a time when it’s, you know, it’s risky for them and it’s risky for their families and they don’t back down from that.”