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Kokua Initiative: Surfers Healing Hawai'i

Did you know that 1 in every 68 US children has an ASD, or Autism Spectrum Disorder? There are so many keiki in need of assistance in navigating daily life. This makes Surfers Healing's work that much more vital. Surfers Healing is a non-profit, offering free surf camps to take kids with autism surfing. They paddle out together, catch the waves, and just have a fun day at the beach. As simple as it sounds, they're defying the status quo. This simple act of riding waves with over 4,500 children with autism and their families quickly becomes a powerful experience, changing these keiki's lives. After serving the community since 1996, Surfers Healing goes beyond "traditional" therapy and positively impacts children with autism.

Surfers Healing began with co-founder, Israel "Izzy" Paskowitz's, personal relationship with autism. His life of unlimited adventure that included everything from living in a small camper as a child searching for the next wave to catch, becoming a professional surfer, and marrying the girl of his dreams, came to a unexpected pause when his first child was born with autism. The so-called "light-bulb" went off at the World Longboard Championship in Haleiwa when his son, Isaiah, was having a meltdown. With no luck at trying to calm him, Izzy took him into the ocean and watched his face light up–that was when he decided to ride the waves with him for the first time.

Many children with autism struggle with sensory overload. Simple sensations such as touch or sound can overwhelm them. Surfers Healing believes that the weightlessness and rhythms of the ocean offer a therapeutic experience, giving them a relief from the constant assault on their senses. This is why Izzy thought the ocean helped calm Isaiah so much–it helped him during a time of sensory overload.

With that in mind, Izzy and his wife began inviting other families to join them in the water. This was the start of Surfers Healing in 1996. Now, Surfers Healing offers camps across the country, as well as in Mexico and Puerto Rico. The experience helps kids with autism find confidence and their sense of calm. With autism, parents are always learning about what their children can't do, but with the Surfers Healing camps, the focus remains on what their kids can do. 

"For parents to see their kids up on a surfboard... sometime's it's nothing less than a miracle." -Surfers Healing Volunteer

The Waiakea team had the awesome opportunity to volunteer at their 5K Run on the Big Island! We had water stations set up for attendees and volunteers and assisted in setting up and taking down the event. 

"I think seeing the relief IN THE parentS' EYES was the most rewarding. Being able to watch their child get out on the water and stand up on the board was incredible. I had to fight back some tears!" -Michele, Waiakea

"It's all about the love of helping others, lifting one up and helping to create these awesome memories for the kids and their parents." -Jay, Waiakea

Donations fund the Surfers Healing camps. They keep them free for families, provide qualified volunteers, and allow for expansion to new sites each year. It costs approximately $75 for a single child to attend a camp; this includes life vests, wetsuits, surfboards, beach permits, and insurance. This year, your contributions can help sponsor families who are unable to afford the trip to attend the Surfers Healing camp. To donate or volunteer, visit the Surfers Healing website.