Upcoming surfing clinic for children with special needs seeks volunteers

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — An upcoming special needs surfing clinic is seeking more donations and volunteers.

SPI Sessions, a business that teaches surfing and stand-up paddle boarding, organized its first special needs clinic last month and will be hosting another one this weekend.

This free clinic offers a chance for special needs children and young adults in the Valley to experience surfing.

Founder of SPI Sessions Aaron Hartwell said “surfing has an absolute ability to transform a life through a memory, feeling and capability, which is exactly why special needs persons, no matter what their handicap, will experience.”

From one day to the next, Hartwell saw a huge increase between the number of people who attended the first clinic and the number of people who registered for the second one.

“For the first special needs surfing clinic I didn’t have an online registration form and I had 30 kids which was great. I had a good turnout,” Hartwell said.

“This time I published a webpage and an online registration form at night and the next morning it was 98 percent full. So, basically I only had about five spots open by the next day.”

The clinic has at least 70 registrants for Saturday’s special needs surfing clinic and about 26 registered volunteers.

An increase in participants coincides with an increased demand for volunteers.

A surfing instructor who volunteered during last month’s special needs clinic said “volunteering was a very awakening experience.”

“You see these kids and young adults carry on the way they do in a positive manner and they don’t let anything set them back,” Ray “Ray” Benavides said. “The reward that I personally got from that was being able to bring joy to people through surfing and seeing them smile.”

Everyone is welcome to volunteer even if they are not experienced surf instructors.

Additional volunteers can help with a variety of tasks including registration, standing by the shoreline and cheering for the kids and acting as “safety extras” that will be monitoring the water.

After learning about SPI Session’s first surfing clinic, Capable Kids Foundation, a nonprofit organization for individuals with social and physical needs, will also be participating with Saturday’s clinic.

Capable Kids Foundation Director Stephanie Wilson said “there’s a huge need for volunteers because there’s a bunch more kids who wanted to participate. We can only handle so many participants at one time, but we’re really excited to be able to work with SPI Sessions and be able to have this surfing clinic.”

“I have a 17-year-old son with autism who’s going to be participating for the first time,” Wilson said.

“He loves the beach and he’s never surfed. So, I showed him the pictures from the first event and he seemed really interested.”

Hartwell posted via Facebook that contribution toward this special needs surfing clinic “will help keep these events free for families, provide qualified volunteers and expand bigger events in the future.”

Hartwell created a GoFundMe page for the clinic with a goal of raising $5,000. So far, the page has raised $230.

“It takes a village to make these events happen, but it makes such a huge difference in so many lives,” Hartwell said. “The possibilities are limitless.”

If You Go

What: Special Needs Surfing Clinic When: Saturday, August 11

9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Where: Beach Circle Access #4,

2000 Gulf Blvd. Volunteer registration: https://bit.ly/2LYgyt5