Tony’s path to volunteering with AccesSurf, as he’ll share below, is a unique one. A Marine Corp veteran, Tony started off as a participant at our Wounded Warrior Day at the Beach. Since he first began with us, Tony has put in a lot of time in the water. We’ve loved watching him progress from the days of catching his first waves ever to now being one of our strongest pushers in the water.

Here’s Tony’s experience in his own words:

So my story is a little different than most volunteers. I started out as a participant then became a volunteer, and I still participate as well. The first time I went to an AccesSurf event was a Wounded Warrior Day at the Beach. We had been on island for only a few months and heard about it through the Wounded Warrior Project.

I have always loved the water and always wanted to surf, so this was perfect. It took me a couple of times paddling before I got up, but when I did I was stoked! I had finally gotten up on a board on my own and wanted to keep doing it, so I told Susan I wanted to come to Day at the Beach as well. She just looked me in the eye and said that for me to come back and surf, I had to volunteer too (she’s the angel on my shoulder). That is how I went from particpating to being a volunteer for AccesSurf.

What I found out about doing this volunteer thing is it does me more good than the people I help. I had lost a purpose once I left the Marine Corps, and this was the beginning of finding it again. Helping others makes me feel useful again and that in turn changes my attitude. I’m not saying it’s all rainbows and roses now, because its not for me, but it is getting better.

90% of the time you will find me in the water with my fins and hat, pushing others so they can catch waves. For me that’s where the joy and purpose comes from, using my abilities to share a wave with a participant – hearing them laugh, cry, scream for joy (I say hear, because when you push them in the wave that’s about the last time you see them until they paddle back out ;).

So I want to thank everyone that comes and lets me help them and the other volunteers for everything else they do too.