Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Surfers Healing Montauk: A Chat with Helene Fallon

Helene graduated from NY Partners in Policymaking in 2006. She is a parent of children with disabilities. Helene has a background in social work and became interested in educational programs as she pursued the programs her children needed. She now works under two grants funded by the State Education Department as a trainer providing technical assistance to families and school districts about special education and transition.

This September Helene and a team of organizations such as East End Disabilities and others hosted a Surfers Healing surf event for kids with disabilities and a very successful fundraiser.

I was in the area that weekend and I got to attend the events. I was amazed! First of all, this was my first time on Long Island. I had no idea that there was a place to surf in New York State! Secondly, this was a BIG event from beginning to end, so I talked with Helene to ask how they did it.

So Helene, how did you even get started?

Well, a couple years ago we heard about Surfers Healing and it seemed like a perfect idea for our area. We contacted the Paskowitz family who run Surfers Healing in California to see if they would consider coming here. When we found out they would, we put together a committee and got started. Long Island really needs recreational opportunities for kids with disabilities and Surfers Healing seemed like a great place to start.

We started small 2 years ago with a few surfers and our fundraiser that year and last year raised about $1000. Our committee was from all over the island and we were united by the over-arching goal of eventual sustainable recreation for kids with disabilities ‘on the island.’

This year they kicked it into full gear:

They had more than 100 volunteers (organizers, lifeguards, surfers and more.) And their fundraiser featured Jimmy Buffett—he has a house on Long Island and he and his staff are very dedicated supporters of kids with disabilities.

Despite questionable weather—overcast through the surfing, POURING through the (outdoor) fundraiser—they had 120 surfers this year and the Jimmy Buffett concert and silent auction raised more than $100,000. (I nearly drowned, but couldn’t have had a better time!)

AND!!! The first meeting to plan an ongoing swimming-sailing-kayaking program including kids with disabilities on Long Island was held in October!

Helene’s advice:

Rely on partnerships, connections, networking and teamwork. Keep relationships going by staying focused on the team’s goal.

-Don’t accept barriers. Find partners that share your vision and keep going!

-Focus on staying organized.

-Keep at it—amazing things can happen.


therextras said...

Excellent program to promote, Terri.

Here, every year, Sea World San Antonio sponsors water skiing for persons with disabilities for ALL ages. Warm Springs Hosp, who are a hub for athletes with disabilities, is an organizer,too. Many wounded warriors are usually enjoying themselves on that day also. Barbara

Terri said...

Great event--great opportunity for fun. And ongoing opportunities as well. It really was wonderful.