LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – USA Water Ski recently partnered with Girls Inc. of Lakeland and Clearwater to provide free water ski lessons to minority and underprivileged youth.

Girls Inc. of Lakeland and Girls Inc. of Winter Haven are non-profit organizations that focus on inspiring girls to become strong, smart and bold young ladies. Both organizations have received an opportunity of a lifetime to teach members how to water ski.

“Most of them would never have this opportunity, so I’m so glad they’re allowing girls to ski this summer,” said Stacy Perkins.

Perkins is the program coordinator for Girls Inc. of Lakeland. She has been with the organization for 30 years.

“You become almost like their grandmother to some of the girls and it’s just a joy,” she said. “They become family. Just seeing them grow up, sometimes you’re in the grocery store and they come and hug your neck.”

Girls Inc. of Lakeland impacts nearly 150 girls throughout the year. The organization offers after school and summer programs. They focus on education and S.T.E.M., and offer educational and fun activities, like water skiing.

“I feel proud of myself because I pushed and did it because I was really, really scared,” said Daijah Strafford.

Strafford is a sixth grade student who has been a part of Girls Inc. for three years. She conquered her fears and successfully went water skiing, which is something she said she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do without Girls Inc.

“I don’t think I would be able to do water skiing without Girls Inc.,” Strafford said. “College tours this summer. If it wasn’t for Girls Inc. I would be home just in my bed, which isn’t productive.”

H Fry is with USA Water Ski and he taught the girls everything they know about the sport.

“It takes me back to the first time on skis,” Fry said. “It’s something they will remember forever. As we look at young people today a lot have become couch potatoes. For them to come out and do something that’s physical, that’s a milestone for them.”

USA Water Ski received a Sports 4 Life grant from the Women’s Sports Foundation and espnW. The Sports 4 Life program is a national initiative geared toward increasing and retaining African American, Native American and Hispanic girls in sports. A total of $294,000 was awarded to 42 organizations across 23 states, including Washington, D.C. USA Water Ski partnered with Girls Inc. to make this happen in Lakeland and Clearwater.

Both Girls Inc. organizations received four lessons each. USA Water Ski said their next grant will help teach veterans with disabilities how to water ski.

For more information on Girls Inc. and USA Water Ski, check them out online.