Douglas, MA -- (ReleaseWire) -- 05/13/2015 --Special Surfer Night, a nonprofit offering free surfing adventures for special needs children and young adults, announces an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to bring the joys of surfing to hundreds of "special surfers" each summer. Since 2004, Special Surfer Night has been organized by surfer Nanci Boutet, whose Aquaholics Surf Shop provided the free wetsuits, surf boards, and SUPs. The program, which pairs volunteer teams with special surfers, has become so popular that Aquaholics owner Nanci Boutet created a nonprofit to separate the program from the shop. Newly armed with its nonprofit status, Special Surfer Night is now seeking funding to buy its own surfboards, wetsuits, and SUPs, and get these kids into the water.
Every third Tuesday during the summer months, families with children on the autism spectrum, as well as those with diagnoses including CF, Spastic quadriplegia, Dubowitz and Down syndrome come from as far as Toronto, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island to give their kids a chance to enjoy the freedom and exhilaration of surfing. Many of these kids struggle with social and sporting activities. But once a month in June, July, and August, 100 Special Surfers get outfitted in wetsuits, paired with volunteers, and head out into the surf. The parents, families (and many interested bystanders) cheer from the beach and take photographs, as the kids ride the waves, some on their bellies, some on their knees, and some getting all the way to their feet.
The volunteers, Boutet explains, benefit as much as the special surfers.
Surfer Tom Gale, who's been volunteering for 4 years, remembers every person he's worked with, and says, "Each one has some fear going into it, and helping these special kids transform that into excitement, happiness, and joy is such a thrill. They show the surfing 'stoke' in ways that are so honest and unfiltered. They are beaming, hugging you, just totally stoked. And their parents are touched by it all, too."
Tim Frechette of Biddeford, ME, is one of those proud parents. His son Hunter, who has Down Syndrome, has been participating in Aquaholics Special Surfer Night for 5 years, and can now stand on a surfboard on his own. "Aquaholics has brought a new level of happiness and acceptance to my son's life," Frechette says.
Aquaholics has offered surf lessons since it opened in 2002. One day Maureen Dow, a special education teacher, asked Boutet to take a few kids with autism spectrum disorder out for a surf session. "They had such a great time—and so did I," Boutet says. She began recruiting volunteers among the local surfer community, enlisting the town's cooperation, and Special Surfer Night was born. When parents of children with other conditions began calling, the answer was always "Yes, we'll find a way." Three years ago, Nanci and Melissa Denis - mom of a 18 year old wheelchair bound son - found a system to secure a chair to a Stand Up Paddle board, and now "chair surfers," aided by six "Special Ops"volunteers, are a regular part of the program.
Now an official 501C3 charitable organization, Special Surfer Night is eager raise funds to keep bringing the joy of surfing to hundreds of special-needs surfers every summer.
For more information about the Indiegogo Campaign, visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/aquaholics-special-surfers--2
For more information on the program visit http://www.aquaholicsspecialsurfers.org
About Nanci Boutet
Nanci Boutet is a former professional volleyball player, lifelong adventurer, and mother of two grown sons who lives in Maine with her husband of 41 years. She learned to surf at 36 years of age, and, in 2002, opened Aquaholics Surf Shop in Kennebunk. Boutet's favorite part of summer is Special Surf Night!