July 20th was a breath of fresh air as we made a return to volunteering with our first group event since December 2019. Four of us joined AccesSurf at their ‘Wounded Warrior Day at the Beach’ program at White Plains beach park – the same event we had done before the world shut down after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was open to active duty and veteran service men and women who are injured, wounded, or battling illness and their families.
AccesSurf builds an inclusive community that empowers people with disabilities through accessible beach and water programs. In following the spirit of Duke Kahanamoku, AccesSurf continues to be a pioneer in the advancement of adaptive water sports, ocean recreation, and therapeutic instruction for people with disabilities throughout the state of Hawaii and worldwide.
Upon arriving, we helped set up all of the equipment needed for the day. Two large trucks were unloaded with tents, gear, mobility devices, surfboards, sunscreen, food and more. After an hour or so of setup, we broke in to groups to begin the training we would need to volunteer throughout the day. Three of us opted to join the beach safety team where we learned how to communicate with important hand signals from the water to the beach, how to work as a team to carry individuals in and out of the water using the mobility chair and even how to do a queens carry with a person lying on a surfboard.
If you’ve never been to White Plains beach park, it has a bit of a drop from the beach to reach the water so the shore break can be intense. We learned to move safely, but quickly, in teams of 5+ to get each participant in to the water. From there, they were free to either join a surf instructor or play in the water on their own, however they felt most comfortable. 29 participants came which meant all of the volunteers had a full day of action, including lots of laughs, lots of sand and a lot of time getting wet in the ocean!
Another of our volunteers helped out at the check in tent where she stayed busy checking folks in, providing them with a rashguard, water shoes and other equipment as needed. She also got in a lot of face time with the cutest little dog, nugget, who apparently has her own instagram account.
We all had such a fantastic time and can’t wait to return again for a future event. Special thanks to AccesSurf, and all the kind volunteers, staff and participants who make all of this possible.