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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.”

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

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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.

 
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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

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

Via FIOS one