The weekend of Aug. 8 and 9 saw the 12th Annual Beach Surf Day in Santa Barbara where the Autism Society of Santa Barbara and Los Angeles charity Project Save Our Surf partnered together to give over 40 autistic children a special day they will surely never forget.
Over 100 volunteers came together to supervise the children as they rode the waves, kayaked, saw dolphins and seals and had the time of their lives.
Parents drove from up to five hours away to join in the event which was created eleven years ago by President of the Autism Society of Santa Barbara, Marcia Eichelberger.
"This is something we started that was very small a few years ago. This was literally created by parents who came together to help provide the much needed services for families who deal with autism as part of their everyday lives," Eichelberger said. "I actually gifted my husband surf lessons on Christmas Eve and thought it would be a terrific way for him to enjoy a pastime with our child. It just grew from there. We are so proud of this day and the joy it provides for the wonderful children, not to mention it gives the parents a few hours to have a break and watch their beloved children have a great time.
Vice President of Project Save Our Surf, Karon Pardue, worked tirelessly on the event and watched with pride as her hard work unfolded. Her son Trae, an accomplished surfer, was hands on as he taught the children the basics of surfing.
"I am proud to be a part of PSOS," said Pardue. "I am also proud of my son and everyone who gave up their time today. This is a such a great, much-needed partnership with the Autism Society of Santa Barbara."
CEO and Founder of PSOS actress, surfer and activist Tanna Frederick was unable to attend the event due to her commitment starring in Dutchman, but was hands on in the planning of the event, "I am so proud of what we are trying to achieve said Frederick when reached for comment, "we are really looking forward to the next one in Santa Monica and, these are my favorite days at the beach, nothing gives me more joy than to achieve happiness and give back to such wonderful appreciative families."
Volunteers who came to support the event included Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Symphony, David Pratt, who was so moved by the day he invited the Autism Society to bring the children for a special concert.
"Music is such a great outlet for these children and their parents," said Pratt. "We want to support and help any way we can with the community."
Purple Heart veteran Brad Fite also came to help on his way to promote his new book Life After Death: A Survivor's Story and had a great time in the water with the kids.
"This is what life is about, " said Fite. "I came to say hello and I was wearing a wetsuit within minutes. Giving back and counting our blessings for what we have is so important. We all have our own struggle to deal with, so this is a terrific way for me to help out — a couple of hours can bring a smile."
Devoted parents to two children with autism, Miranda Brown and her husband Roger Brown, drove over four hours to the event from Tulare County, which was held at Campus Point at UCSB.
Brown beamed as she watched her sons, nine-year-old Dillon and nineteen-year-old Nathan, enjoy kayaking with volunteer Oliver Peake, who drove up from Santa Monica to help out.
She said, "we have very little resources where we live for Autism, so this is an event we are prepared to make the drive for, our children love it here. Truly a day to remember."
Volunteers and instructors came from far and wide and included Dos Pueblos Surf Team, San Marcos High School Surf Team, Summer Bosse, Oli Schultz, Skyler Rosseau, Natalie Valdez, Holly Bosse, Brian Bosse, Bishop High School's Bella Reichard and Amelia Szabo, EF International Language Center students Lola Woestyn, Doris Yang, Julia Becker, Poppy and Anna.
Instructors included JP Garcia, Trae Candy, Evan Fuller, Colin Bosse, Daniel Robinson, Adam Thea Neushul, Michaela Bostwick, Greg Loshak, Natalia Valdez and Oliver Peake.
As the day came to a close, the hungry children, surfers and instructors enjoyed a free lunch kindly donated from Whole Foods, Chipotle and Honest Tea.