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.
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.
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.
Krystal 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.