August 24, 2015
On July 16, 2015, students of the Henry Viscardi School at The Viscardi Center had the chance to catch some waves and experience the thrill of surfing at National Beach in Long Beach, NY. The afternoon of surfing and beach fun, which included their families and friends, was made possible by the Long Beach non-profit Surf for All which introduces people with disabilities to surfing.
Held during the Long Beach Surf Week, the event began with everyone holding hands in memory of Connor Troy, a former student at Henry Viscardi School. “Connor had always dreamed of surfing, but passed away before he got the chance. With the help of Surf for All, we make sure no other person with a disability misses his or her chance to experience surfing,” said Connor’s mother, Kerry Ann Troy.
A series of walkways led students over the sand and down to the beach comfortably in their wheelchairs. For some students this was their first time feeling the cool breeze of the ocean on a warm sunny beach. Students were taken down to the water in beach wheelchairs with assistance from a group of Surf for All instructors. The students and instructors worked together to find the most effective way for each child to catch a wave, receiving lots of encouragement from their “fans” on shore.
First time surfer, Tiffany, caught a wave and surfed back to the beach with her instructor both laughing and smiling, “I loved it! I am definitely coming back next year!” Abraham came to the beach because his classmate Glorianna told him of the amazing experience. Originally not planning to surf, he was motivated and empowered after watching his friends and surfed in a few times. For some students, the outing has become a summer tradition. “This is my third year surfing and I really like it! I really love the big waves,” said Keanu, after standing up and riding his surfboard into the shoreline. Parents loved seeing the excitement on their children’s faces as they experienced the ocean and the feeling of riding a wave back to shore.
Co-Founder of Surf for All and Competitive Big Wave Surfer, Will Skudin, spoke about the day, “Today is about more than just surfing, and today is a celebration of people’s lives. It tests us to adapt to a person’s disability and do what we need to do to have them catch the best wave possible, no matter what. Seeing someone’s joy after surfing for the first time makes all the difference.”
The Henry Viscardi School at The Viscardi Center is a New York State supported school that offers parents of children with severe physical disabilities and who often require life-sustaining medical treatment throughout the day, a traditional educational setting option that provides rigorous academics and opportunities for personal growth and leadership development. Its specialized, accessible educational setting provides a fully-enriched academic program, a variety of therapies, assistive technology and medical supports to students who may otherwise need to receive instruction in their homes or a hospital.
About The Viscardi Center: Founded by Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr., who served as disability advisor to eight U.S. presidents and became one of the world’s leading advocates, The Viscardi Center educates, employs and empowers children and adults with disabilities. It provides Pre-K through High School education, school-to-work transition services, vocational training, career counseling and placement, assistive technology and workforce diversification assistance to children, adolescents, and adults with disabilities and businesses. A global leader, it employs 300+ professionals, including experts in education, human resources and technology.