Over the weekend, we got to experience (again) one of the best autism related events in the world (yes, I said in the world).
It’s a scary idea – giving your child to essentially a total stranger, to go out into the ocean…and get on a surfboard. You know, no big deal. But Surfers Healing does it, and judging by the many parents and kids (including us) singing their praises, it clearly is worth it.
This is the second year we have participated, and I was extremely lucky to get into this year’s camp. There was a technological snafu on Registration Day back in April, in which the registration link went “live” an hour early. I just happened to be on Facebook when a fellow autism mom made mention of it – I dropped everything I was doing and hopped on the site. Luckily, I did get B in. I know lots of people were upset because of the error – these camps normally fill up in less than 30 minutes!
As we got closer to the event, we showed him pictures from last year, and the video we got of him. We used a social story on what to expect – and that all he needs to do is have fun.
Better said than done, of course, but we can hope, right?
We drove from DC to Virginia Beach on Friday. We made it in plenty of time to check in and look around the hotel. The weather was dreary and cool, which was unusual in mid-August. Meanwhile, we were awaiting word from the event staff whether the Welcome Luau would still go on as scheduled. There is nothing worse than getting caught in a downpour at a luau.
Happily, the organizers decided to move forward with the luau and the rain held off. We headed down to the site and staked our claim on the sand. The food was good and the dancers, once again, were great.
Afterwards, I got to talk to a couple of autism moms that I’ve gotten to know through Surfers Healing. Then I brought B up to meet the Big Kahuna himself – Israel “Izzy” Paskowitz.
Izzy and B had a nice deep conversation (of about 30 seconds) of how B did last year. We found out that Josh (his surfer from last year) was sick and wasn’t able to come. But Izzy promised B he would get someone out there for him. I not only got a picture of B and Izzy but also one of the whole family (thanks Scott!).
The next day, we woke up to rain. It was outright depressing to look outside and see the rain, especially after waiting all this time for the surf. But, they surf in rain or shine, so we packed up our gear and headed to the beach.
B’s surf time was at 9:30 AM and we made it right when they wrapped up opening ceremonies. His group was one of the first up to surf. We waited in line with the other kids, and B was totally stoked. When it was his turn to check in, he gave the woman a great big hug. Then he got his life jacket on and I was shooed away.
B did so much better this year. He was out there for the whole time with his surfer, and rode three nice waves. He was not scared; in fact, as soon as he was done with one wave he indicated going back out. He stood on the board with his surfer and didn’t panic. He didn’t have sensory overload. Such a change since last year.
CJ was his surfer – a quintessential surfer dude, Husband points out. CJ said B did so well and for being that young (remember, the kid IS five years old). We thanked him so much (Mahalo again CJ!) and sent him on his way to give other kids their chance.
Afterwards, we stayed out on the beach. After all the complaining and bellyaching, the weather was perfect. It wasn’t warm – so I didn’t have to deal with overheated kids. It was overcast – no sunburns. It rained during lunchtime which cleared out a lot of people – more room in the sand for us. B got to play with some other kids, in between trying to throw sand as far as possible.
I got to roam around the resource tables, and ended up buying a sweatshirt to keep me warm. Lunch was catered so we didn’t have to worry about leaving to find somewhere to eat.
Another reason we hung out at the beach as long as we did was because we wanted to get a “second chance” for surfing. Sometimes they let the kids go back out – and B wanted to go again. Unfortunately, after they went through the groups, we were told that the surf was a little too rough. Bummer.
B was definitely sad to hear that, but we then went to the hotel’s indoor pool to cheer him up. Unfortunately (#1), it was not heated, and it was frrrrreeeeezzzzzinnnnggggg. By the way, what indoor pool is NOT heated?!?!? We only stayed for a little while before deciding to go out to eat. Unfortunately (#2), Mayita decided this was the perfect time to take a nap in the car, so we ended up with drive-through McDonald’s.
Really, it was for the best anyway, because we were all pretty tired from such an awesome day.
And the next day was worse – it took us almost seven hours to get home because of the traffic, the weather, and God knows what else.
We finally got home, cranky, tired and curmudgeonly, but filled with hau’oli memories.
So, once again, Mahalo to Surfers Healing, to Izzy, Danielle and Isaiah, CJ and the rest of the surfers. Mahalo to the many volunteers onsite, those who staffed their resource tables, the volunteer photographers, and the organizers with Guardian Angels (who coordinated the Virginia Beach camp). You guys have done so much to bring smiles and laughter to those kids’ faces over the weekend. I only hope this post shows you just how much your organization means to us.
P.S. Here is other other media coverage regarding the Surfers Healing camp:
I Can Has Autism (another autism mom): One Perfect Day: Surfers Healing 2013