During our stay in Waikiki, we were invited to participate in an incredible event benefiting autistic children sponsored by a group of people that you would normally not associate with autism – surfers.
The organization sponsoring the event was Surfer’s Healing based out of San Juan Capistrano CA. Surfers Healing was founded by Israel and Danielle Paskowitz. Their son, Isaiah, was diagnosed with autism at age three. Like many autistic children, he often suffered from sensory overload– simple sensations could overwhelm him. The ocean was the one place where he seemed to find respite. A former competitive surfer, Israel hit upon an idea–with Isaiah on the front of his surfboard, and Izzy steering from the back, the two spent the day surfing together. Surfing had a profound impact on Isaiah. Israel and Danielle decided they wanted to share this unique therapy with other autistic children. They began to host day camps at the beach where autistic children and their families could be exposed to a completely new experience of surfing.
In just this event alone, Surfer’s Healing gave over 450 kids of all ages the opportunity to surf and ride the canoes. The benefit was absolutely free to participants and included surf lessons, canoe rides, food, drinks and goodie bags plus other opportunities for families to enjoy the Waikiki beach.
While many of the surf instructors were from the island, many came from all over the country to participate in this event and volunteered their time and expertise. Similar events have been held on the beaches of Puerto Rico, Virginia, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island.
Events of this size take lots of help and there was another group of people who were instrumental in bringing this event to Waikiki. The Eddie Aikau Foundation, specifically Zane and Piilani who are direct descendants of Eddie Aikau. Zane and Piilani coordinated much of this event bringing together volunteers to help with registration and getting corporate donations.
The Eddie Aikau Foundation is a charitable organization created to share Eddie Aikau’s life, contributions and accomplishments while promoting education and the advancement of Hawaiian culture. Founded by the Aikau family, the Foundation pays tribute to Edward Ryon Makuahanai Aikau in honor of his love for his family and others, his courage and compassion in saving lives, and his dedication to Hawaiian people and culture.
Eddie’s legacy is a pure symbol of the Aloha Spirit. The Foundation’s ambitious goals are realized through advocacy, education and philanthropy. These goals include: advancing education and community service; supporting ocean-related activities and events; assisting in the preservation and perpetuation of Hawaiian history and culture; and encouraging Hawaiians and visitors alike to respect and contribute to the growth and development of Hawaiian culture. The Foundation strives to inspire people to develop a strong sense of pride in themselves, their heritage and their community through Eddie’s remarkable spirit and character.
Courage was entwined through this event. The courage of the Paskowitz family to start Surfer’s Healing. The courage of the Aikau family and the countless volunteers to step up and work hard to put the event together. The courage of the kids to try something new and different. It was such a beautiful thing to watch and inspiring to see all the people who were being impacted by this fabulous event.
We were thrilled to be invited to the event. Allison did get to participate in the surfing and canoeing. John and I got to meet some of the volunteers, hear the stories and help with the clean-up. It was a wonderful day and so inspiring to learn about this organization.