Children catch wave of joy at Autism Surf Day

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BRICK TOWNSHIP — Something special happens to a child when they are out in the ocean. That much was clear during Autism Surf Day Wednesday, when children with autism were treated to a day of surfing at Brick Beach III, courtesy of Parents of Autistic Children [POAC] and Coastline Adventures Surf School. Brick Township lifeguards and Brick Township High School football players towed the children out into the waves on paddleboards. As they rode into shore, joy emanated from their faces. “It is life transformative,” said Jennifer Steffener co-owner of Coastline Adventures. “To see the joy on their faces makes everything you do worthwhile.”
Victor Carusi, 9, of Lakehurst, rides a wave. RYAN WELSH/THE OCEAN STAR
Almost 200 children and their families came out to the surfing event July 19, according to Gary Weitzen, executive director of POAC. Often, he said, the day is just as impactful for parents as it is for the children. “This little boy actually stood up on the surfboard. The parents were hysterical with joy and the children are learning that there’s no limits to what they can do,” Mr. Weitzen said, adding that for many families, Autism Surf Day is the one day a year they can go to the beach. The Grahams are one of those families. “What I love about it is I know he’s super safe,” said Suzanne Graham, who brought her son James, 5, to the surf event. “Coming to the ocean with anyone who has autism, your biggest fear is the water because they just have no fear of water. “To know they were having this event where there was going to be a ton of lifeguards and a ton of other participants that were going to be helping and everybody was trained just made me feel more comfortable and more safe.” To learn more about POAC, visit www.poac.net.

For more on this story, read The Ocean Star—on newsstands Friday or online in our e-Edition.