NYC hospital takes patients surfing in Long Beach

The Hospital for Special Surgery made a splash last week with a surfing trip for young patients. Giving new meaning to the term “patient care,” the Adaptive Sports Academy at Lerner Children’s Pavilion at HSS treated 12 patients, along with some of their siblings, to sand and surf in Long Beach.

The hospital, which is located in Manhattan and has an outpatient center on Long Island, has an office in Uniondale and offers a number of orthopedic specialties.

It turned out to be a great day for surfing on Aug. 15, and HSS patients enjoyed sunshine and waves. International big-wave surfer Cliff Skudin taught the lessons, along with his specially trained staff at Skudin Surf, choosing the appropriate surfboard for each participant.

The hospital’s Adaptive Sports Academy enables young people with cerebral palsy or another physical challenge to experience the benefits of exercise. The program’s trips and recreational experiences aim to build their self-confidence, encourage independence and increase physical activity and mobility. The excursions are offered without cost, thanks to the generosity of donors.

Adaptive surfing and other activities are competitive or recreational sports for people with disabilities. Rules and equipment are sometimes modified to meet the needs of participants. Some patients are nervous at first, but they exceed their expectations and have a blast.

Ranging in age from 6 to 22, many patients who signed up for surfing have cerebral palsy or another condition that affects body movement, muscle control, posture and balance. A number of the young people have had multiple surgeries by pediatric orthopedic surgeons at HSS and go there for physical therapy.

Some used a beach wheelchair to get to the water, but that didn’t stop them from climbing on the surfboard. Balancing on a surfboard while in the water would be a challenge for any beginner, but with help from their instructors, many patients experienced the thrill of a lifetime standing on the surfboard while riding a wave.

“These children are fearless — they did so well surfing,” said Bridget Assip, a pediatric physical therapist at HSS who attended the trip. “It benefits them because they feel free in the water. They can do things that they may have a harder time doing on land. The families and kids had a great day at the beach and so much fun in the water.”

Six-year-old Brooklyn McDonald was excited just talking about it. “It went great, I loved it,” she exclaimed. “I caught a lot of waves,” she added, already using surfer lingo.

Her mother was thrilled to see what her daughter could accomplish. “It was awesome,” said Andrea McDonald, who has taken Brooklyn on a number of adaptive sports trips sponsored by HSS. “We try to bring her to these events because it’s almost the only opportunity she has to participate in something that’s inclusive,” she explained.

The Adaptive Sports Academy at HSS offers a number of fun activities that benefit patients throughout the year, including horseback riding, rock climbing, tennis and basketball.

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Camp gives kids with disabilities the chance to learn to surf

By Linda Massarella

Disabled kids are catching waves on Long Island and standing on their own two feet — or hands.

Isaiah Bird, 9, who was born without legs, is one of seven youngsters who are learning to ride the longboard this week on Atlantic Beach at what organizers call the state’s first surf camp for challenged students.

“It was great!” said Bird, a fifth-grader who thrilled beachgoers Tuesday by doing a handstand on the board as he balanced himself over the waves.

When Tommy Cura, 17, who has Down’s syndrome, arrived for the first day of camp, he needed an instructor to tow the board out to sea and stay with him as he wobbled to stand.

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Tommy Cura with a surfing instructorVictor Alcorn
On the third try, the instructor paddled off and left Cura to get back to shore by himself.

“I stood up!” Cura shouted excitedly.

The four-day camp was created by John Jay College Professor Jim Mulvaney, who watched his own autistic son, now 29, gain mental and physical strength from the sport.

“The ocean is a great equalizer,” said Mulvaney, who rounded up surf equipment and dozens of volunteers for the camp.

He adapted two of the surfboards with water jets to help kids with less physical strength participate.

“I’ve seen kids speak their first words after surfing. It’s a risky sport, but there is dignity in risk. It makes them feel empowered.”

Besides overseeing the free week of camp, Mulvaney treats another 20 special-ed students from Long Beach Middle School to weekly surf lessons.

View Article on NY Post


Hospital for Special Surgery hosts surfing trip for kids with disabilities

By Kadia Goba
For Aidan Conroy, his second try on a surfboard was a lot different from his first.

The 13-year-old from Oakdale surfed for the first time last year with a life vest, which helped him spring back up after falling off his board.

But this year, Aidan had no vest and he was able to feel the action in the water — an exciting experience for someone with cerebral palsy, which affects muscle coordination in his legs.

“It felt like I was just the same as everybody else,” he said.

Aidan was one of a dozen patients from the Hospital for Special Surgery who came out to Long Beach Wednesday to brave the waves and build sand castles. This was the medical center’s second annual group surf, where patients with disabilities get to participate in activities they might not normally experience.

“I went a lot further this year than I did last year,” said Conroy, who managed to catch a 4-second wave at one point.

Andrea Conroy cheered her son as she stood beachside with her other children, Kieron, 10 and Ethan, 6.

“He’s really good at archery,” she said of her son, who is also a competitive archer. “Where he can do something that requires stamina or hand-eye coordination, he’s amazing.”

The Hospital for Special Surgery specializes in orthopedics and rheumatology, serving children and adults. The 150-year-old institution launched its Adaptive Sports Academy last year, introducing cerebral palsy patients to activities including skiing, horseback riding, rock climbing and surfing.

“It allows the kids to use their bodies in new and different ways,” said Peyton Katz, pediatric patient and family coordinator at HSS.

Along with reinforcing therapy goals, Katz said fun activities boost patients’ self-esteem.

Alexandria Vega, 9, of Far Rockaway, who has cerebral palsy, was so eager to attend the event that she cried when it was initially canceled Monday because of rain.

“I stood up on the board three times, but last year I only stood up once,” said Alexandria , whose mother said she was a lot more confident this year.

Some patients sat while they maneuvered the gushing water with the help of skilled surfers from Skudin Surf, a surfing school .

Brooklyn McDonald of Brooklyn returned to Long Beach for the second time. The 6-year-old used a beach wheelchair to get around Wednesday. After being wheeled from the car to the beach to the plastic mats that create a pathway along the beach, Brooklyn had her chance in the water and on the land, where she likes to scoop sand.

“I [caught] the waves a lot,” she said.

Andrea McDonald, 35, said her daughter looks forward to the annual event and appreciates how it includes everyone.

“It doesn’t matter if she can stand or not stand, none of those things matter,” she said.

Patients can look forward to the next outing in October — a dance clinic with the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes.

Watch Video on Via Newsday


Special Needs Surfers: ‘Riding Those Waves Makes Me Feel Free’

LONG BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Thanks to a program trading land for sea, kids with cerebral palsy and other special needs are surfing, and the benefits are physical and especially psychological.

On a summer day on Long Beach, Long Island, parents and children can be seen playing in the sun and sand, surf boards ready to ride the gentle waves coming in.

A closer look shows that some of these kids are in wheelchairs, yet they’re here to surf, reports CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez.

“It’s a lot of fun, it’s soothing once you’re in the waves and its calm,” said cerebral palsy patient Sidorela Lessy from Queens. “Riding those waves makes me feel free.”

Such praise is common from all the kids and parents from the Lerner Children’s Pavilion at the Hospital for Special Surgery and hosted by the Skudin Surf Camp at Long Beach.

The surf camp is a once a year outing from the Adaptive Sports Academy, which also sponsors horseback riding, tennis, basketball and even rock climbing for kids with special needs, from ages 6 to 22.

Theresa Moriarty’s daughter has spina bifida.

“It’s wonderful to see her free, and just able to see her surf and just do these other activities that are now normally as accessible for her,” she said.

“I really enjoyed it,” said 11-year-old Kara Wollemboog.

“It was really fun because I got to stand up on the surf board three times, which is a new record,” said 9-year-old Maya Vega.

There’s something about being in the water that seems to be therapeutic.

“They feel more comfortable in the water than out of the water,” said Michael Salerno of the Skudin Surf Camp. “I don’t know how to explain it.”

Some children may be able to do things in the water they might not be able to do on land, which has medical benefits.

“It helps them with balance, it helps them with body awareness, and I think most importantly it helps them with self esteem and confidence,” said physical therapist Bridget Assip.

And then there’s something all the therapy in the world can’t provide in a hospital or clinic…

“Exciting and fun,” said 9-year-old Alexandria Vega. “It was really fun.”



Tracey Romero • Tue, August 22nd, 2017
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The Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) recently made waves when it hosted its first adaptive surfing trip on Long Beach for some of its young patients.
According to a news release, 17 patients, most with cerebral palsy or another condition that affects body movement, muscle control, posture and balance, got to hit the waves courtesy of the Adaptive Sports Academy at the Hospital for Special Surgery’s Lerner Children’s Pavilion in New York City.
“The academy organizes trips and recreational experiences for pediatric patients to build their self-confidence, encourage independence, and increase physical activity and mobility,” said Siobhan Clarke, PT, DPT, PCS, a pediatric physical therapist at the hospital who also surfs and owns a home in Long Beach in the release.
Adaptive surfing is a way for people with disabilities to experience the exhilaration of riding the waves. Adaptive sports where sometimes rules or equipment is modified to meet the needs of the participants can be both competitive and recreational.
“Adaptive sports not only enable people to experience the benefits of exercise. They always feel empowered after trying a new activity and succeeding,” Clarke said.
The hospital program is offered without cost, funded by the generosity of donors and sponsors. Patients on the trip ranged in age from 5 to 21. Many have had multiple surgeries by pediatric orthopedic surgeons at Hospital for Special Surgery and have been patients for years.
Sidorela Lleshi, a 21 year-old college student, was one of the patients who participated in the trip.
“It was thrilling…the water was so cool. My muscles are tight, and sometimes I have spasms, but it felt like they loosened in the water,” she said in the release.
Another patient, 12 year-old Aidan Conroy, was hesitant before riding his first wave, but by the end he couldn’t get enough of it.
Each patient surfed with an instructor. World-class surfers Will and Cliff Skudin along with their staff at Skudin Surf provided the lessons.
“Outings such as this are a wonderful opportunity for the kids to socialize with other patients and accomplish things they didn’t realize they could achieve,” says Peyton Katz, CCLS, pediatric patient and family care coordinator at HSS in the release.
“Some kids are not sure at first how well they’ll do, but they always exceed their own expectations. Some parents cry when they see what their child can accomplish.”
Lisa S. Ipp, M.D., chief of Pediatric Medicine at Hospital for Special Surgery, added, “The Adaptive Sports Academy gives our patients a chance to develop new skills and interests, and it promotes mobility and activity. It also reinforces therapy goals by engaging participants in a new activity and requiring them to use their bodies in a new way.”

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People with disabilities take to the waves with ‘Surf for All’ on Long Island


A surf program on Long Island allows people with disabilities to experience the healing powers of the ocean.

It’s all thanks to the generosity of others.

9-year-old Isaiah Bird was born without legs.

If you think that has stopped him from living well you’d be dead wrong.

“Surfing is fun because you get to do cool things, you get to be in the water, and it’s just so much fun,” Isaiah said.

It’s made possible by the group “Surf for All” based in Long Beach.

“One of the problems with the disabilities community, we tend to coddle our children too much and we don’t give them the experience of falling down skinning their knee, hitting their head on the board, getting up and saying that was fun,” said Jim Mulvaney, Surf for All.

Mulvaney started the program in 2002 for his son who has autism.

This year he decided to have a whole summer camp.

“We’re trying to get more and more of them to be able to just surf,” Mulvaney said.

The camp runs four, one-week sessions. The participants get to surf four days in a row.

“This is rather than just have them an afternoon of fun, let’s have them four days of development, so it’s not just being on the board, we have some special exercises for them,” Mulvaney said.

“I love it I’ve been doing it for about 20-something years now, before and after I got hurt, and it’s just as fun now as it was then,” said Joe Testaverde, participant.

Lora Webster plays volleyball for the U.S. Women’s Paralympic team.

They just won gold at Rio so her next thing to conquer is the water.

“This is my first day out. I caught probably about four waves and it was awesome. My leg fell off a couple of times, but not all the way, so I was able to recover and hop back up,” Webster said.

Kathy Butler says life started blossoming for her son Charlie as soon as he started participating with “Surf for All.”

“His verbal skills, his communication skills,” Butler said, “Everything in his life started getting better.”

It doesn’t get much better than that.

View full story here

9-year-old born without legs finds success on wrestling team

Whether it’s in the classroom, on the sports field or in the ocean, Isaiah Bird is making waves.

Isaiah, who was born without legs, plays football, soccer, runs track, swims, surfs and skateboards. But the wrestling mat is where the 9-year-old from Long Beach, New York, has become the one to beat. In his fifth year on the wrestling team, Isaiah went 27-12.

“I just keep going on,” he said. “

[I say:] ‘I can do this. There’s no excuses. I can do this.’ And I just do it. And I keep practicing and practicing. If I, one day I get pinned. … I go back to practicing and practicing and I get better and better and better.”

Mother and Son Born Without Arms Spread Hope With Special Bond

The rising fifth-grader has a supportive cheering section behind him made up of his mother, Bernadette Hopton; his friends and teammates; and his coach, Miguel Rodriguez. Isaiah said Rodriguez helped him a lot, giving him the fight to keep pushing.

“He says, ‘No matter what, you still can do all these things the other kids can do.’ And he says, ‘There’s no excuses. No matter what, you keep doing it. No matter what. Just do your thing. Have fun. That’s the most important thing,'” Isaiah said.

Rodriguez took Isaiah under his wing when the 9-year-old was in kindergarten. Since then, Rodriguez has functioned as both Isaiah’s coach and teacher assistant, accompanying him to every class and after-school.

Rodriguez said he got emails, phone calls and videos daily from adults and children around the U.S. saying that they’d been inspired after watching videos of Isaiah wrestling.

“He just gets it done. I think we complain a lot about everything in life. And we don’t know how easy we have it. Life is not always fair, but he doesn’t complain about it,” Rodriguez said.

He said that Isaiah was “one of the biggest gifts” in his life.

“I hope for him to follow his dreams. I hope for him to never change his personality and the way he is because he has an amazing, amazing personality. … He has no idea what changes he’s making in other people,” Rodriguez said. “Hopefully one day he can be a motivational speaker. Maybe he can, you know, travel the world and just show people that, you know what, he did it and that they can do it, too.”


Via ABC News


A Long Island surf camp gives the gift of independence to kids with special needs.

Via FIOS one


Surf for All: Chasing waves, changing lives

By Karen M. Romanelli


Charlie Butler wrote poetry in the sand. The autistic pre-teen from Long Beach was barely verbal for much of his young life and communicated by making words using his fingers and toes at the beach.  But when Charlie turned 12, he found another way to express himself using sand and surf. He was introduced to Surf For All, a program that Charlie’s mother, Kathy, says changed his life. He began first with swimming lessons through the program. Later, when he turned 16 and entered Long Beach High School, Butler participated in the “Surf For All” program offered through the district’s special education summer school program. It was then that he not only learned how to surf, but he began to speak as well.


Will Skudin preparing to ride some waves with the students from the Henry Viscardi School last July. Photo credit: Dawn Shmaruk.

“Surfing completely raised the bar for Charlie,“ says his mom who credits the foundation for her son’s remarkable development and remembers how terrified she was the first time Charlie attempted to surf seven years ago. Charlie was nervous too, but his self-esteem and confidence has since soared. Butler recognizes, “It’s not just my son Charlie who has been helped. Kids with cancer, muscular dystrophy, blind children have all benefited from this incredible group.”


Surf For All is a nonprofit that works with special needs children and adults, as well as those who have terminal illnesses or those who are living in underprivileged circumstances—even wounded warriors participate in the annual summer program.

So, how did this group come to be in the first place? Simple, three surfer dudes with huge hearts, one with an autistic son and all with the shared passion for the ocean saw a tremendous need for it on Long Island and founded the nonprofit in 2002.

“A lot of kids that come through our program are shy and timid,” says co-founder Cliff Skudin, the Long Beach native, who along with his big wave professional surfer brother Will Skudin, own Skudin Surf. Their self-esteem is kind of low. They’re not outgoing, they’re just one of those kids that needs that spark. The two were born in Hawaii but returned to their Long Beach community roots with their family at the ages of six and three. The Skudin brothers’ love for the ocean crosses generations. Both sets of grandparents were lifeguards and surf instructors. Even their ancestors were into surfing way before it was “modernized,” explains Cliff, who says his mom, who also helps run the surf clinics, had him in the ocean at only two days old.

Enter Jim Mulvaney, fellow Long Beach resident, avid surfer and program founder who was inspired by a program called Surfers Healing, and the three set off to help thousands of Long Island special needs kids achieve something unimaginable. Mulvaney, a college professor and private investigator knows that being a parent of a special needs child sometimes means the child is too often coddled and has the parent thinking “oh he couldn’t do that” but instead, these kids become surfers, which he calls an “unlikely accomplishment.”



Catching waves with help from instructors. Photo credit Dawn Shmaruk.

The community has embraced the group, says Mulvaney, especially with emotional support by coming down to the beach to watch and cheer. “That’s an enormous thing for these kids,” he says. This summer will mark their 14th year of the program, which offers approximately 20 surf outings per week, taking a group of 20-25 students out into the water for two hours at a time. The loosely built foundation that holds no fundraising benefits—beyond selling T-shirts and hoodies—relies on the occasional spontaneous contribution and the support of its volunteers. Surf for All also partners with several community organizations, including United Cerebral Palsy of Nassau County, Long Beach Waterfront Warriors, Camp Abilities Long Island and The Henry Viscardi School.


“We eat. We sleep. We breathe. And we teach surfing,” says Will Skudin, who travels the globe chasing huge swells in hopes of achieving the top five spot in the professional surfing world. He credits his parents for the innate feeling to give back, and describes his experience instructing these children as a “humbling.” It brings him “back to square one.” Both brothers agree that what they get from the program is just as much a gift as it is for the participants. “These kids inspire me and keep me going to do more,” says Cliff, who ultimately obtained a masters degree in adaptive physical education. The benefit to the young surfers is immeasurable.

“They did not see my son as an autistic kid. They saw him as a young man who they wanted to turn into a surfer,” says his mom.

With the confidence gained after riding the waves on their own, these kids get more than a lesson on how to “hang ten” as Butler can attest, “Surf For All is not about the disabilities. It’s about the possibilities.”

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Karen M. Romanelli lives in Stony Brook and is a freelance writer and Development Manager at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.