Dwight and Shelley Durant spent most of their working lives helping other people. So, it’s no surprise these 2023 Leopard 42 owners continue serving in retirement.
The Oklahoma couple operates the Ten Seven Retreat. Their non-profit program sends the families of fallen Oklahoma police officers on a seven-day Bahamas cruise on the Durants’ Leopard to help them recover from their loss. The program embodies two of the Durants’ passions, boating and supporting their community.
About the Durants
Dwight retired from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol after a multi-faceted career that included serving as a liaison and advocate for injured officers and their families. Shelley is a registered nurse. When the couple married in 2006, they brought a shared love of water. Shelley grew up boating and fishing on Oklahoma’s lakes. Dwight worked on a tugboat for several years before joining the Highway Patrol. Motorboating was a big part of life as the couple raised their blended family of four kids.
As empty nesters, the Durants set their sites on a bigger maritime adventure. They took their motorboat around The Great Loop, a 7,775-mile route that includes the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, intercoastal waterways, the Gulf and East coasts, and the Great Lakes. During that epic 13-month journey, the Durants took a side trip to The Bahamas. That’s where their boating life changed forever. After meeting a Leopard 40 owner in Bimini and touring his boat, the couple fell in love — hard.
They envied the space and stability provided by a catamaran and admired the Leopard’s quality construction and floorplan, especially the door from the cabin to the forward deck.
“That forward hatch provides a wonderful breeze and makes it so easy to get to the front of the boat quickly and safely,” says Shelley.
In a matter of days, the life-long power boaters put down a deposit for a Leopard 42.
Their Sailing Journey
The Durants finished the Great Loop and went to sailing school while they waited for delivery. They named their Leopard Ten-Seven Freedom, a reference for the police radio indicating an officer is off-duty.
“People have told us that we did it backward,” says Shelley. “They said you are supposed to go from sailing to motor boating when you retire because motor boats are easier. But that hasn’t been our experience.”
Since taking ownership of their Leopard, Ten Seven Freedom, the Durants have spent a lot of time exploring the Bahamas. Shortly after they arrived in that paradise, the couple decided they wanted to give back — to share the magic of Caribbean cruising with those who could somehow benefit from that experience. The answer came quickly: they wanted to help the families of fallen law enforcement officers in their home state.
The Ten Seven Retreat Comes to Life
Shelley and Dwight decided to form the non-profit, Ten Seven Retreat and began raising money to cover every possible travel cost for their guests - from airfare to hotels to spending money and passport fees. In March, the couple hosted their first Ten Seven Retreat family, the widow and two children of a sheriff’s deputy killed in the line of duty. The Durants worked with law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma and Florida to support the family during their travels. Police officers escorted them to the airport in Oklahoma and met their flight in Fort Lauderdale.
While Dwight says they intend to let their guest decide how to spend their time in the Bahamas, the couple prepares a full itinerary of possible activities, including visiting popular sights like the swimming pigs and Thunderball Grotto.
“If they want to sail to a new place every day, that’s great,” says Dwight. “Or if they just want to sit on a beautiful deserted beach all day, that’s OK, too.”
The Durants consider this first experience a great success. The family took full advantage of all the Bahamas had to offer and seemed to visibly relax during the trip.
“The mom told us this was the first time she’s seen her kids smile since their dad’s funeral,” says Dwight.
Dwight and Shelley plan to host up to three Ten Seven Retreats per year. And, they say, other Leopard owners have expressed interest in creating similar programs for law enforcement families in their home states.
“Who knows,” says Dwight. “Maybe someday we can do a flotilla of Leopards all doing their version of the Ten Seven Retreat.”
To learn more and donate, visit the Ten Seven Retreat website