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

    Pentagon: Afghan Hospital Bombing Not a War Crime

    US Central Command's Joseph Votel says probe found tragedy was result of 'extraordinarily intense situation' that included multiple equipment failures

    US Minorities Link Guns with Other Social Ills

    New study finds reduction in gun violence could help lower America’s incarceration rate – the world’s highest - and improve relationships between police, citizens in minority communities

    Speeding Causes Spike in Deaths on South African Roads

    At least 14,000 people die each year from country’s traffic-related incidents; authorities criticized on issues of safety, legal enforcement

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkey Islamists

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora