How would you describe a perfect day? Maybe it’s a day where everything goes right; you beat the morning traffic, you get accolades at work, you don’t spill any coffee on yourself. Maybe you and your spouse get a night out or you take the family on a trip. For families of kids with autism, that perfect day happens at the beach with Surfers Healing.
“Autism can be hard, and there are bad days for all of us, but today will not be one of them,” Co-founder Izzy Paskowitz said. “We look forward to seeing all of these beautiful children and hope that they’ll be able to take the joy of this day with them all year-round.”
Yarissa Thomas was at Surfers Healing at Folly Beach this year with her son Alexander. While he has always loved the water, he’s also had a fear of being submerged in it.
“Before Surfers Healing, my son was terrified about having water touch anything above his neck. He had an extreme fear of drowning,” Yarissa said. “After his surfing session, he grabbed his swim mask and went underwater. Just like that, a switch was turned on and he started swimming. He was like a fish in the water. He kept saying that he was conquering the waves. He was so full of confidence. I never knew that with a little bit of surf therapy, my son would conquer his fear, and now he can feel free in the water, where he is the happiest”.
It took my wife and I just one trip to see just how special this ‘one perfect day’ truly is. This year marked our second camp, and our daughter Aerabella — though initially waitlisted — was able to surf. Our kids may not be able to participate in the same things as many others, but on this day they do something awesome, they are accepted, and they are celebrated.
I had the pleasure of talking with Nicole Dantzler who told me the story of her son Gabe. They have been attending Surfers Healing at Folly Beach for 10 years. She told me Gabe doesn’t really care for holidays; he doesn’t make Christmas lists or show interest in an advent calendar. What he does have is a countdown for Surfers Healing, because that is his Christmas.
“This day soothes his soul and stimulates his speech and sensory abilities,” Nicole said. “The water calms his ever-anxious stemming hands. Surfers Healing is therapy for his mind, body, and soul.”
Surfers Healing is not just a perfect day for the kids and their families. Craig Massey has been volunteering on the waterline for 3 years, and he is grateful for the opportunity to give back to these special families. “I always have to keep my sunglasses on to cover my tears,” he said.
These stories are what this day is about. It’s about hundreds of strangers coming together and, in an instant, becoming family. To our Autism Ohana — we’ll see you next year.
If you would like to support Surfers Healing, you can use code SURFER when you order popcorn, and 50% of your purchase will go toward helping them continue to provide these incredible camps free to kids with autism.
Mark and Cassandra have been an unstoppable duo for 10 years. They have four beautiful kids Ashlynne, Aerabella, Mikel, and Alexis. Both Ashlynne and Aerabella have an autism diagnosis. Mark is currently in college where he is studying special education.