Philanthropy Friday: Miracles on Water

Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer. You can view past posts from the series here.

The following article is a guest post from Krystal at Life – Where’s the Handbook. 

Back in May of this year I had the opportunity to volunteer at a Surfers for Autism (SFA) event in Key West. This was the first event I ever attended and wanted to check it out before I registered my children to participate.

The purpose of the day was to allow children with autism the ability to get on a surf board and experience the love of surfing and being on the water. They were there to let families be families and raise community awareness about autism.

To say that I was moved beyond words is putting it mildly.

The day of the event we had to modify the technique because in the Keys there really aren’t any waves to surf on so the idea to have them Paddleboard was introduced. Volunteers walked into the ocean and created a large circle. The children were then placed on paddle boards and pushed along through the circle – sort of like a conveyor belt – from volunteer to volunteer.


Source: M. Jackowski with Surfers for Autism

The children were laughing and excited. They were engaging with the world around them – autism was nowhere in sight!

They were giving hi-fives and “shakas” to the volunteers.

I was given the pleasure to paddle with a child; he was no more than 4 years old. He was non-verbal. At first he just sat on the board and didn’t move, he looked scared and nervous.

I asked him if he wanted to try standing up – he nodded yes and he did it! He held my hand of course but he did it! He was all smiles!

I asked if he wanted to go around again – he nodded yes – we did this about 3 more times and he was standing up the whole time!

When the small waves made him wobbly, he held tight onto my finger and found his balance. He would look at me and smile. I was connected to this kid. He reminded me of my son.

As we approached the shore, I saw his mom and she had tears in her eyes. Happy tears.

I also saw one of the veteran surf instructors work with another child to get him to stand up on his board. The child was nervous but he never gave up. All the volunteers were cheering him on. When he finally stood up, he was all smiles and laughter. We all cheered for him and clapped for his progress. I cried.


Source: Surfers for Autism, Facebook Photo Album SFA Key West 2013 #2

This event brought hugs and smiles and even first words for some children. Parents, volunteers, and staff were in happy tears because of what they were experiencing.

I can’t wait to get my children to participate next year because SFA has become a big part of my life. I have made some great friends and have fallen in love with the miracles and happiness that they bring to our children.

lifewhereshandbookKrystal is a mom of 6 children on the autism spectrum. She blogs about parenting, autism awareness, and life in general at Life-Where’s the Handbook? Her passion is raising awareness about autism and volunteering in organizations that support inclusion and autism awareness. She is continuing her efforts in support of SFA by running in a 5k race to raise funds for the organization in January 2014.



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  1. says

    Krystal, I remember reading about this event on your blog back in May and I’m so glad that you got to share your experience with Jennifer today. That this event brought first words to some of those children moves me to tears.
    Ilene recently posted..Designing HomeMy Profile

    • says

      I’m glad to have shared it here with Jennifer and all of you! These events are hosted all over Florida and they have one event in Georgia, Puerto Rico, and even Australia to reach so many families and get these kids in the water and just be kids!
      Krystal recently posted..For the Love of Surfing and AutismMy Profile

  2. says

    Thank you so much for sharing this! We had signed my son up two years ago but had to cancel because of a conflict. Two friends of ours went that year and said it was the best experience ever. One of the best organizations in the country and I am so glad you shared your experience here. Next year I hope to get on the list again!
    Alysia recently posted..Free To Be You And Me (reprise)My Profile

    • says

      Alysia – I’m so sorry that you missed out but there is definitely not a shortage of opportunities. I hope that you can attend next season and see for yourself and your son how just perfect a day they can have. I know you’ll be back for more because I surely will!
      Krystal recently posted..For the Love of Surfing and AutismMy Profile

    • says

      Unconditional giving is very true! People from all around come to experience the events and are shocked at how in just one brief moment, these children can open up to the world around them and just be kids. They in turn then pass the joy and love with others and raise awareness about autism and community acceptance.
      Krystal recently posted..For the Love of Surfing and AutismMy Profile

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