So, onto my post!
On August 22, 2011, Wrightsville Beach, here in the awesome state of North Carolina, was overtaken by one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed. Almost 200 children (all with some form of ASD), their parents, some amazing surfers from all over, and a giant group of volunteers descended upon that beach before the sun had even finished rising. They were all there for Surfers Healing, an awesome, wonderful, believe it or not life changing event.
What is Surfers Healing? I thought everyone knew. I had heard about it years ago, but I never thought much of it. Not until Henry came along anyway. Then I learned that not many people really knew what it was. Surfers Healing was founded by Izzy and Danielle Paskowitz. Their son Isaiah was diagnosed at the age of 3 with autism and, like so many other autistic children (yes, I said "autistic" and I realize this goes against other posts, but we'll go there another day because people change and sometimes they go in circles. Anyway!)......like so many other autistic children, Isaiah found peace in the ocean. Izzy, a former competitive surfer, got Isaiah out on his board and it made a tremendous impact. Thus, Surfers Healing: A Foundation for Autism was born.
This was an amazing day. We got there around 8:30 in the morning. I expected Henry to be in full on meltdown mode because 1) it was morning, my boy doesn't do mornings. 2) It was different. My boy doesn't like different. But, there must have been a peace over everyone because there were no tantrums and there was no stress. We were a little early, so we registered and Henry played. I watched the surfers in the water. I don't think I would call it practice because these guys and girls know what they're doing. Maybe getting ready is a better way to put it. It was beautiful.
Henry played in the water until it was his time to surf. It took me a while to stop and realize how relaxed we all were. We didn't have to worry about the "what ifs" that go along with having a child with autism. What if he throws a fit? What if he disturbs someone? What if he runs over someone's belongings? Yep, ALL parents worry about these things, but throw autism into the picture and you have to worry about it constantly. It's not if they take off and run over someone's stuff, it's when they do it. Nope....no one here cared. I don't mean that in a bad way. They empathized, they understood, but there was just a knowing that no one parent here would be judging another. Our day was great from there, from that moment that I realized that we were going to enjoy a morning on the beach and nothing that happened that may be out of the ordinary, was going to be out of the ordinary. So we played while waiting for Henry's surf time.
The event started out with a prayer circle. I watched everyone get in a circle. Then I watched as that circle kept growing and growing, and growing some more. I would have had to either stand way back or have a wide angle lens to capture it all.
We enjoyed some more time on the beach, and then the 9:30 surf times were called. That was us! So, we got in line at the life vest station. Henry was still doing great. He didn't fight because he had to wait for something. Henry is just like his mother, we aren't a patient family. It's one of our shortcomings. He did great though! Then.....oh then. I realized that I wasn't going with him! *Gasp!* You mean they weren't going to let me hold his hand the entire time?! I knew this, but it didn't hit until then. He went with his first volunteer who fitted him with his vest. They then stood there while waiting for the next surfer to be ready. They played and sang songs. Henry loved it.
It was time! Henry's surfer was ready and he was going to surf!!! Henry's surfer, Cari talked to him some and then they went out into the water. My little buddy was a natural at this! There were no tears and no fears. Luckily, he has been raised around the ocean. I guess that's a perk of his Daddy being in the Navy. Some children were afraid, but these volunteers were amazing with helping to calm them down and get them out there. Families drove for hours to go to this camp, so some of the children had never seen this big ol' body of moving water. I can't imagine what that's like, but I think if I weren't also raised around it that I would be scared to death of it too. Meanwhile...back to the post (my ADHD is showing!) Henry was in the water and on a board!! They caught some waves, they chatted, they laughed and had a good time! I think he was in the water for half an hour or so. At least it seemed like it. He had a blast! The board they were on said something about a surf school. He read it to Cari and they joked about it because he found it funny.
He was in Heaven. I just knew that when he got out of the water that he would be so upset! He proved me wrong! He was in such a good mood that it just carried on and on through his entire day. We stayed a couple of hours longer until Henry started getting tired. Then we started home. He walked to the van, holding his Daddy's hand, still smiling and talking about "surf school". The entire ride home he smiled, occasionally letting out the biggest laughs ever. He was still on cloud 9. It didn't end there! It went on for days! In fact, here we are, well over a week later and we are still hearing about surf school.
Surfing had some sort of impact on Henry that I can't explain. He is talking more. He is happier. He has slept better on most nights, needed less "apple ju squeeze" (that's apple juice, please to those that don't speak Henrenese), and just has this happiness radiating from his little body. It's amazing. I want to start helping this organization in anyway that I possibly can. Fundraisers (attending and possibly holding), plugging, whatever I have to do, I will do it. I want every kid with autism out there to have a chance to do this. I want to shout from the rooftops how great Surfers Healing is. I've gotten a pretty good start by telling everyone we know and every stranger that doesn't care about it. I'll be "harping" on it even more in the future. So get used to that. I've been looking for something that would draw me in and that I could get involved in. I found my something in Surfers Healing.
If you're able and have it in your heart, please consider taking a moment and visiting the Surfers Healing website to take a look around. http://www.surfershealing.org Please consider donating to this amazing cause if you can.