A Walk On Water | Montauk, New York

It's been almost 3 years since I first volunteered with A Walk on Water. AWOW is a surf therapy organization focused on guided surf instruction for special needs children. I love it, everything about it. From meeting each athlete on the beach, paddling out, and catching waves to the pure magic and energy of the volunteers and supporters that come together and make each event possible.

I recently flew to the East Coast and participated in AWOW's 3rd annual Surf Therapy day in Montauk. There was something different about this day. It wasn't the record number of participants (over 100 families) or the perfect 4-5 foot offshore hurricane swell, although that was amazing.

Physically, I felt the same as most other surf therapists feel after a full day in the water with the kids. Hungry, sunburnt, blood shot eyes, sore everywhere, loss of voice, and aching cheeks from smiling the entire day but all the while worth it in every way.

The moment that really struck me was when I heard for the first time, a story from one of the mothers with a child with special needs. It's hard to explain the feeling but i'll never forget this moment, it hit me so hard, my heart was full and going to burst. I didn't really think my connection to the ocean could become much stronger until I heard Agatha tell her story and the impact all of us at AWOW has on her family. Please take 3 minutes to read her words below, this is a true feel good story. 

"Hello all. I'm Agatha Wallen I'm here with my husband and our two sons Mason and Trevor. Both our sons are autistic.
Being a parent is not an easy job. Being a parent of a child with special needs has added challenges. Being a parent of a special needs child with sensory processing disorder is a whole other world in itself.
We were introduced to AWOW by the Swenteks, Sean and Lourdes. Heading to our first event I was skeptical that we were even going to participate. Our oldest Mason was 7 at the time and he struggled with processing any sensation that was new to him. I knew it would be nearly impossible to get a wetsuit on him. He was kicking, hitting and screaming the whole time. But with help from the very patient Wetsuit staff, it took 5 of them, I remember. Denise Drury was one, and we got it on him. Then came the struggle to keep it on him. He wrestled with me as I tried to keep him from ripping the wetsuit off. He was screaming at me, scratching and hitting me. 
Then Sean, our sweet, big hearted Sean walked up and said I'm just going to take him now. I watched as this brave man walked of with my son, my son who was wailing around and pulling Sean's hair. And in a blink of an eye he placed my son on a surfboard and into the care of an expert surfer/autism child whisperer Pat Notaro. As my tantrum child was being paddled off out to sea, in a hail of cheer and applause from everyone around, I could see him transform. My son became calmer as they moved with the water. I saw his body relax as he stretched out on the long surfboard. My child regained his composure and started to participate. 
As I sat on the beach the tears just poured out of me. It was relief, a little fear and a whole lot of joy to see my son's peaceful relaxed body being paddled away on the long board. I could see Pat talking to him the entire time and it looked like my son was actually listening to him. Then I felt a sudden calm. A calm that I had not felt in years. A Walk On Water staff members came and sat with me. You could honestly feel the love that staff and volunteers have for what they do and for a complete stranger and her child. 
When I could finally see my son coming closer to shore, He was standing up tall with only one hand holding on to Pat's wetsuit. There was a big ear to ear smile on his face.  As he walked onto the sand he did his signature stiffening of both hand and body in excitement and said, I want to go again mommy.
This is what AWOW is all about. Giving children like my son the opportunity through lots of patience and understanding, through determination and love to do something that he or she would not normally be able to do. They give parents the support and encouragement to let their child have this exposure. They offer the same experience to siblings so a family can truly bond over a shared family event.
We are now going on four years of surfing with A Walk On Water. We have introduced many families to this organization and every single one has had the same positive "It's like no other event we have ever experienced" response.
So thank you all for coming out tonight to help support and fundraise for this extraordinary organization. Thank you for helping them give so many children and their families something unforgettable".
Here are some moments captured by our friend and Purveyor of RAD , James Katsipis (@letstaulkgrams)

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