For a fourth year in a row, Shelby surfed at Surfers Healing’s camp for children with autism spectrum disorders. Storms threatened us all day and the heat was oppressive, but Shelby came to surf and surf she did.
This year our surfer was local surf instructor Jack Viorel, Jack is a personal friend and awesome guy all-around. He was a teacher at our former parish’s school before stumbling across a Surfers Healing camp that changed the course of his career. He was out surfing that day when he came across the camp and it inspired him. Inspired him to leave a career in teaching to run a surf school full time and start a global surf charity. Through his global surf charity, Indo Jax Surf Charities, he has surfed with orphan girls in India, blind children with the Helen Keller Foundation, children with AIDS and those with autism (in addition to offering his and his program’s services at Surfers Healing allowing for more children to surf on that day).
Shelby has surfed with many wonderful surfers over the years but it was special this year to surf with a local who gives so much back to our community and the world because he knows what surfing has given him. Plus, he gets to teach and through surfing still fulfill that vocation.
Jack and Shelby had numerous great runs yesterday. She is a tough cookie to crack but Jack and every surfer who’s ever had the joy of surfing with Shelby have cracked that code. Shelby cannot speak but her face tells the story over and over on each wave she rides in. God gave Shelby surfing so that she could show us what is possible: the overwhelming joy that comes out of an act of kindness, the love of embracing who you are and being who God created you to be, experiencing God in all his Majesty. Even the dolphins came out to celebrate the gifts of these children as they surfed yesterday (didn’t get a pic, they were pretty far out!).
Yesterday we saw again what many parents and spectators were seeing for the first time. The joy and blessing of our special children as they get a special experience. For me, it’s impossible NOT to see God in the surf as Shelby and her fellow-surfers ride in. To see His power in the waves and His joy in their faces and His mercy and over-flowing love in the faces of the (mostly) men who donate their time, talent and treasure to be there to make it “one perfect day” for the children and their families. Outside of receiving Him in the Eucharist, this has been the most profound feeling of the love of God I have ever received.
Mahalo to Izzy Paskowitz (founder of Surfers Healing) and Jack Viorel for Shelby’s perfect day. And the biggest mahalos to God for giving us the chance to experience His love in the surf.