Sunday, August 21, 2011

What a difference..... Surfers Healing 2011

Look at that smile!! :) PURE happiness and joy!
The ocean heals my soul when I see that look of pure excitement!

Thanks to Emily Peat for this wonderful picture of Ashton

Surfers Healing 2011 in Virginia Beach, did not disappoint. It was a beautifully sunny, warm, light breezy day. Perfect weather for surfing!

CFA sandwiches are a FAVE!
Since we've done this before, we knew a lot more about what to expect. Got Ashton signed in, received his goody bag and all of our t-shirts, and went and found a spot on the beach. We ran into many friends and the excitement was in the air! Funny enough, my family and went ahead and grabbed a spot while I was talking to a friend. After I sat down, I realized another group of friends were in front of us; the Peko Family!

We got there right as lunch was being served; Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwiches! The camp was running a little behind, trying to wait for the surfers and volunteers to catch a breath from the morning heat of surfing, plus allowing them time to eat and take a break. Plus, they were waiting for some better waves, as the waves petered out a bit in the afternoon.

Ashton's surf time was scheduled at 1pm, though he didn't go out until around 2:00 because of the delay. He was so excited, as he knew exactly what to expect! He was slightly disappointed that he didn't get to surf with his surfer from last year, Kalani Kahalioumi, but I think once he was out on the water, he didn't mind one bit! There weren't very many waves during Ashton's time out in the water, but he did get to ride a couple of smaller waves in. He greatly enjoyed just laying on the surfboard out on the water; what an extremely calming effect.

But, what excited me the most wasn't the way Ashton was in the water, it was how social Ashton was this year, in comparison to last year. I don't know if it was the vibe or energy of those around us, or if he's really just made that much progress, but wow, amazing. We had seen Kalani the night before at the Welcome Luau at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. He'd given Ashton a gift (a poster of himself surfing) and gave hugs, etc with a promise to "see you tomorrow!".  I cannot tell you how many times I heard "Where's Kalani? Where's surfing? Where's Kalani? Where's surfing" the entire ride home and even afterwards. It was hard getting him wrangled into bed that night, but he went, begrudgingly.

When we arrived at the beach Saturday, we looked for Kalani. We ended up heading over to the tents where the surfers were taking a break, eating lunch and chilling out. We saw Kalani (after asking several people where he was) and Ashton got a huge grin on his face and was so excited! He got even more excited when Kalani started introducing him to all the surfers as his buddy. At this point, I paused, because I was amazed at the transformation in my son. He was talking, laughing and being a total social butterfly! This time last year, he would have shied away from them, not knowing what to say. This year however, he was wanting to meet everyone and excitedly talked to anyone who would listen! He caught a glimpse of Izzy Paskowitz and said "I saw him on TV" so the surfers gathered us around and introduced Ashton as a fan! :) We got a couple of great pictures, gave Izzy hugs and I thanked him for all he does for our special children with Autism. What a gracious, generous, teddy bear of a man. So humble and so normal! Ashton had a blast meeting all the surfers, and I'm so glad they didn't mind our interruption.

Mahalo to all of the surfers who gave my son much aloha and many happy memories! We now can't wait until next year! Our entire family had a wonderful time watching the transformation of these kids in the water and I'm continuously amazed at how such a busy event can be run so smoothly.

Special thank you's to Izzy, Kalani, Pito and Tim ..... I can't remember the names of all the surfers we met yesterday but I greatly appreciate the time and effort you all make to help our children feel the love and acceptance that they so greatly deserve.

Here are a few pics from yesterday..... enjoy!

Izzy Paskowitz (founder of Surfers Healing) and Ashton

Izzy grabbed his "cool man" sunglasses for another cute shot!
Getting suited up
Getting led over to his surfer w/ a volunteer
Ridin' a wave in with his surfer, Tim (look at that smile!)
Ridin' the second wave in....
Thank you Tim for your patience and kindness!
Ashton with last year's surfer, Kalani Kahalioumi - TY for the gift! 
Thank you so much everyone! Surfers Healing, Surfers Healing VB, all of the volunteers, the surfers, the families who shared their children with us all, and most of all, thank you God for putting Angels on Earth like these tireless people, who can give us a day away from judgement, away from the stares and puts us with a group of people that we can laugh with and share our joys with.

Gift from Kalani (trying to get a frame for it)

Until next year,