Ocean City Today

Annual Surfers Healing camp in Ocean City

By Kara Hallissey | Aug 24, 2017
Photo by: Kara Hallissey Two hundred autistic children learned how to surf in the resort last Wednesday in front of Castle in the Sand. The Ocean City Chapter of Surfer’s Healing hosted the eighth annual event, which took place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the beach and in the ocean on 37th Street.

(Aug. 25, 2017) Two hundred autistic children learned how to surf last Wednesday in front of Castle in the Sand Hotel on 37th Street, as the Ocean City Chapter of Surfers Healing hosted its eighth annual event on the beach and in the ocean.

“Kids can be themselves, not be judged and no one has to worry about their children’s behavior,” said Kelly Loeser, an organizer of the Ocean City Surfers Healing event along with Woody German and Kat Rammel, in addition to 150 volunteers. “[The Surfers Healing camp] provides a special experience they can be proud of and talk about all year.”

Tina Hornung, from Harford County, Maryland, had tears in her eyes while talking about how much the camp meant to her. Hornung’s 4.5-year-old son, Tyler, participated in the Surfers Healing camp last week for the second year in a row.

“It’s life changing and every family who has a child on the [autism] spectrum should experience this,” Hornung said. “It is a no-judgement zone amongst families going through what we are going through. We are so grateful.”

Hornung said she would visit Ocean City and attend the Surfers Healing camp even if her son was not participating in the program.

“There is so much love in the whole Surfers Healing community,” Hornung said. “My child is out there in the water and I have no fear. He’s at peace. It is a beautiful thing to watch and unconditional love.”

At least 23 professional surfers and lifeguards from Hawaii, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, California and other places around the world volunteered their time on Aug. 16.

“The surfers are something special,” Loeser said. “Spectators are amazed and sometimes the kids will speak for the first time in months. Sometimes these families never get out because of behavioral or sensory issues. If their child screams here today no one cares.”

All 200 participants took home a medal, T-shirt and swag bag full of goodies. More than 150 volunteers were on hand to make sure the event ran smoothly.

“Our community is amazing,” Loeser said. “We get so much support from area businesses. Even parents [of current and past participants] donate because they want to see it continue.”

The Surfers Healing camp began in 2010 with around 60 children, and has grown in popularity every year in Ocean City.

“There was a need for it,” German said. “It’s not just the surfing. It’s a day at the beach for these families.”

The annual August event has had a waiting list for the last four or five years and is capped at 200 surfers, German said.

Fundraisers and individual contributions allow free Surfers Healing camps to take place for autistic children and their families annually. Life vests, wetsuits, surfboards, beach permits, insurance and sponsoring families who cannot afford the trip are all covered through donations.

“It’s the second-best day of my life besides by son being born,” Hornung said.

Online registration opens in April at www.surfershealing.org through a week-long lottery system for the August 2018 camp in Ocean City.

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