News / USA

On Special Day, Disabled Kids Ride the Waves

Austin Bramson takes a ride on a surfboard with the help of a Best Day at the Beach volunteer. (VOA/D. Grunebaum)
Austin Bramson takes a ride on a surfboard with the help of a Best Day at the Beach volunteer. (VOA/D. Grunebaum)

Austin Bramson is about to ride on a surfboard for the first time, and that will be quite an accomplishment. The 15 year old has a rare genetic disorder, and is unable to speak or walk.

His mother, Nancy Cruse, explains that since birth, he has been totally dependent on others for his care. "He will always be in diapers. He needs to be fed. He can not self feed at all, he can not self drink. He can not dress himself. He’s in a wheelchair which he can not operate himself."

Yet now, wearing a life-jacket and water safety helmet, Austin is getting ready to ride the waves rolling into this Atlantic shore. He's one of dozens of developmentally and physically challenged kids who've come to the popular seashore in Long Branch, New Jersey, to have one of their "best days at the beach."

Volunteers put their arms around his body, lift him out of his wheel chair, and lay him on his stomach on top of a surfboard.

The volunteers carry him out into the ocean about 15 meters from the shore and when the right wave comes along, Austin starts riding it in with the help of a volunteer who’s lying on the back of the same surfboard.

There’s a wide grin on Austin’s face as he comes ashore. His arms and legs wiggle with excitement.

His mother beams. "It just had to be pure joy. Just had to be pure joy. I just, the smile on his face I haven’t seen that smile in a long time from him. So I mean I started to cry. You wonder sometimes when you have a child with a disability: are they happy and to see that I knew he was happy. At that moment, he was happy."

Best Day at the Beach is a day when young people from ages 4 to 24 with developmental and physical disabilities can get help surfing, boogie-boarding and kayaking -- and draw cheers from their families, friends and volunteers.

"Really, it’s about showing kids what’s possible and showing everyone what’s possible," says Max Montgomery, a longtime surfer who co-founded Best Day at the Beach four years ago in his native California after being inspired by a similar local program. "We have parents come down and tell us 'Oh, my kid is not going to do this.' And then they’re standing there with tears watching their kid exceed their wildest dreams. We have kids come down here saying they’ve dreamed of being a surfer and yet maybe they’re in a wheel chair. And we get them out in the water, surfing."

While some of the kids very rare disorders, like Austin, most of the new surfers have disabilities such as Downs syndrome, cerebral palsy or autism.

Best Day at the Beach sponsors about 20 events each year at Atlantic and Pacific beaches. Montgomery says each one gives about 40 special-needs children and young adults the chance to ride the waves.

"There’s just something about tapping into the power of the ocean and feeling freedom and to be able to help someone experience that is truly a blessing," he says.

Dozens of volunteers come out to help Montgomery with his events. New York attorney Eliot Bickoff spent the day surfing with one kid after another.

Growing up, Bickoff spent his weekends on the Jersey Shore.

"I’m a surfer myself [and an] avid waterman," he says. "And it’s just a great opportunity to share the sport with other people, you know, let everybody have a fun time and try a sport that otherwise would be pretty tough or inaccessible."

"Awesome, dude!" says Jenny Heath-Kaplan,12, who is autistic, as she rides a surfboard, just as she did on her first trip to Best Day at the Beach last year.

Her mother, Wendy Heath, says the fun and social interactions help Jenny progress.

"Often times we find when we give her an experience like this she gets a language surge," Heath says. "On the way home, she’ll say things that we’ve never heard her say before. So I think that thrill, translates into that sort of surge."

Each time Jenny finishes riding a wave to the shore, she asks for another trip. The volunteers get ready to take her out again, giving her the Best Day at the Beach possible.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More