I know I have been pretty quiet lately. With the move this summer and an impromptu visit to my mother’s, I just haven’t had a chance to sit down and write anything. That is until now.
This past weekend Michael had the amazing opportunity to be involved in the Surfers Healing one day surf camp. For those of you not familiar with it: It is a one day camp in which wonderful volunteers give their time and show autistic children how to surf….YES…SURF! I have tried to get him in, in the past. I was always too late, and the drive for a wait list spot was just too long. This year, a few months back, a friend had posted that there was a camp in Virginia. I knew we would be living here by then. So, there I sat. Finger poised….waiting for registration to open. As soon as it did, I got him in. I was so happy.
I had been showing Michael the video on the Surfers Healing website. I was trying to prepare him for it. He was very excited and was talking about it…a lot.
Fast forward to last Saturday. His scheduled surf time was 10:30 am. We arrived at the beach about 9:30. We parked the car and walked over. I could see in the parking lot, lots of other families who I assumed were also attending. When we walked to the beach, the first thing I noticed was the “red carpet”. The stairs that lead to the sand had a red carpet (made out of wood planks and sort of red astro turf-ish type material that you could walk on, all the way to your registration point) That was so great for kids who have sensory problems walking in the sand, as Michael once did. We checked in and then were given a wrist band with our group number. We were told that there was lunch being served at a few different times during the day, and that we were welcomed to eat. I had forgotten our beach umbrella. Much to my relief, they had a bunch set up for anyone who wanted to seek some shade. We set up camp under an umbrella, and waited.
One of the volunteers, named Linda, saw us sitting and came over to chat. She talked to Michael and told him how much fun he would have. He was engaged and excited. Linda told me that she had been volunteering for Surfer’s Healing for 10 years now, and that this was the first year that the Virginia camp was 2 days. That way they could accommodate more children. She said there would be somewhere around 400 children who would get to surf.
At 10:30 we heard our group number called. We got to where they were fitting the children for live vests. They checked my wristband, and took Michael by the hand. While they took Michael in to be fitted, there was a little boy also getting fitted. He was not happy. He was crying, and that set Michael off. I was holding his hand and telling him everything would be fine, that the boy just didn’t like the life jacket. Michael was visibly upset now as one of the volunteers talked to him. He kept asking, “But what if I get scared”, and he also started to cry. It was tearing my heart out, but I let the volunteer do her thing. She kept reassuring him that he would do great and love it. Once he was fitted, another volunteer came over and led him to his surf instructor. All the while, they were talking to him making him comfortable. He was met with Kalani Brown, one of the many volunteer surf instructors and his surfboard. Next thing I knew they whisked him to the water’s edge where there even more volunteers waiting. He got right on the board and Kalani paddled them out. The pictures that follow will show you some of what I watched that day.
I had tears in my eyes watching him out there. He LOVED it. He got to go back out there 5 or maybe 6 times…I lost count because I was just so amazed at what I was watching. Each time they rode that board back in Michael exclaimed, “AGAIN, AGAIN, AGAIN!!!”
When he was all finished he got a medal. “A real metal medal, mommy!!!”
If you ever have the chance to sign your child up for this, you will not regret it. It was run so very well. It was also a free event.
I just cannot say enough..other than Mahalo (Thank You in Hawaiian) to Izzy Paskowitz, and his amazing group of volunteers for making this such a wonderful experience for all.
For more information about Surfers Healing, here is their website and Facebook page.