Surfers and surf-lovers from across the region gathered in Flagler County last weekend, to help raise money for autism.
BY SHANNA FORTIER | COMMUNITY EDITOR, Palm Coast Observer
A line of parents towed the shoreline Saturday, Aug. 17 cheering and taking pictures as their children, with the assistance of volunteers, caught a wave and rode it into the shore.
The fourth-annual First Coast Surfers for Autism Beach Festival was held for the second year in Flagler Beach and, despite the questionable weather, maxed out participation at 200.
Surfers for Autism, a registered nonprofit, was founded December 2007 and held its first event May 2008 with 40 kids in Deerfield Beach. Since then, it has grown into a massive event, with a full blown beach party with international locations.
“We want this community to know that two years ago, when we made the decision to relocate the First Coast event, we couldn’t have made a better choice,” said President and COO Don Ryan. “This community nailed it. They own it and we’re proud that the event has a permanent home here. There’s magic happening in the water.”
One parent who was watching magic happen was Michele Mantell, whose son Bobby was participating in the local event for the second year. Bobby, who is now 7, was diagnosed with autism when he was not yet 2 years old, as a non-speaker. Since then, he has made huge improvements and is now talking and taking classes, although he still struggles with some of the textural issues. That is one reason why Michele said the Surfers for Autism event is so huge for him.
“He gets to get in the sand gets in the water, and gets to break through those barriers that might otherwise hold him back,” she said. “Last year, he was nervous about coming out and getting in the water, but having a team of people supporting him the whole way in was huge.”
Now, Bobby loves the surfing and had been waiting all year for the event to return.