The Following is adapted from a Surfers for Autism press release:
Surfers for Autism will stage its ninth beach festival of the 2012 surf season Aug. 18, at Flagler Beach.
The inaugural Hunter Connect/Surfers for Autism event took place in Australia on Nobbys Beach Feb. 11, and the season ends on Carolina Beach, in Puerto Rico mid-November.
The organization’s first domestic event of the season took place the weekend of March 31 on Deerfield Beach and was the most well attended event in the group’s five year history.
After two years in St. Augustine, it was decided that Flagler Beach would be a better venue for the event. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., 200 children and young adults with autism and related special abilities will charge the pier at Flagler Beach to provide the locals with a day centered on sharing, positivity and philanthropy.
“We are thrilled that this year’s event will be on Flagler Beach,” said SFA President Don Ryan. “We have no doubt that the local community will step up in a big way, which is the only way we can do what we do on the scale we have grown accustomed to.”
For most of the families attending SFA events, days like this just don’t happen very often. Due to lack of awareness and acceptance, awkward moments are all too common, and many families begin to isolate or withdraw socially.
“Once these athletes hit the water, there is no differentiating one child from the next in terms of abilities, and stereotypes begin to shatter,” said Ryan.
In the event, children and young adults on the autism spectrum and with related special abilities will spend the day being pushed into waves by expert instructors.
Michael Baughn posted on the group’s Facebook page recently to offer words of assurance to Australian families set to attend their first SFA event, and his words mirror those of thousands of transformed families:
“SFA has made all the difference in the world for our son. Most days he is a child that is moderate to severe on the spectrum, but during SFA events he is a surfer. He has learned to surf, asks to surf, and he loves it; we would never have thought it possible. SFA made it possible through love, compassion, and support. When we are at the events, everyone is family, everyone is supportive, and our kids can just be kids,” he said.
SFA events are free for participating families and also serve as fundraisers. There are 15 events planned for 2012; for organization information, visit www.surfersforautism.org.