Each month we share with you the story of both our Volunteer of the Month and the month’s featured AccesSurfer. Well, this month we have a very special two-for-one as we introduce you to Christiana (our Volunteer of the Month) and her little sister, Cecilia (this month’s AccesSurfer) – because for these two water loving wahine, sharing the stoke is truly a family affair.
Let’s hear first from Christiana, who we are so excited to feature as our Volunteer of the Month. She is absolutely amazing in the water – bringing joy to any and all who have the chance to surf with her.
A little over 9 years ago, my family was looking for a fun program to start volunteering for. We
found AccesSurf and have been excited for the monthly Day at the Beach ever since! The most
wonderful thing about AccesSurf is how a whole community can get together to make sure that
one person can feel limitless and well taken care of. AccesSurf is where strangers become best
friends! To see so many people jump up at every opportunity to help someone get to the sea
and experience what it’s like to feel weightless and free is the most rewarding feeling. I’ve
witnessed so many lives that have changed after one wave!
My little sister Cecilia is my motivation to get up super early on a Saturday morning and race to
White Plains. Cecilia has down syndrome, she is unstoppable and she will literally pull me out of
bed and make sure that “we go AccesSurf, because IT IS SATURDAY. You, SURF WITH ME
TODAY!” AccesSurf has helped her grow in so many ways, she has blossomed and become so
much more social, strong, and brave. The encouragement that she gets from catching waves
gives her a thrill that nothing else can compare to. So of course, I see that huge smile and I
can’t not be excited to bring her back every month.
Another little girl that has changed my life through her bravery and strong will is Eliana, she is
blind. When I first met Eliana, she was very shy, scared and definitely wanted nothing to with
me or the ocean. She screamed and cried but with lots encouragement and a sushi bribe, she
was in the water with me! We would sing the ABCs to calm her down catch one or two waves.
Now 2 years later, its almost impossible to peel her little toes off the board when its time to go
in! My favorite thing to hear when I’m paddling in is, “One more wave!”. Of course that leads to
two, three or even 5 more waves but hey, who’s counting!
These are only a few examples of the countless reasons why I keep coming back. I am so
blessed to be apart of something so special and amazing.”
In addition to sharing those inspiring words from Christiana, here is a sweet and powerful message from the mother of this month’s featured surfer, Cecilia:
I’m so grateful for what Accessurf has given each member of my family of 8.
We first encountered AccesSurf when my oldest son encouraged a small teen group, including his younger sister and brother, to train to help others surf and swim in the ocean.
After one beach session, my children were edified by the courage and bravery of those they surfed with. They learned so much about gratitude for the things we simply take for granted. Month after month of volunteering, they met families who shared with my children, their challenges and joys.
One year later, God blessed us with a daughter diagnosed with Down Syndrome. As God prepares the path ahead of us, we were now a family facing the challenge of raising a daughter with Down Syndrome.
I can’t express enough the gratitude I have for Accessurf …. the opportunity to serve but now also a community who has welcomed my daughter with open arms and ready to have access to the sport of swimming and surfing. Ready to build her confidence in the water and in herself.
The hearts of everyone involved in this program is simply phenomenal. May God continue to bless the work and the gifts of AccesSurf.
My oldest son has since passed away and we are forever grateful for the initiative he took to involve us in AccesSurf. May he rest in peace.”
We are so grateful to Christiana, Cecilia, and the ENTIRE Cortes ohana for being such a big part of AccesSurf.