Surf camp for kids with disabilities kicks off in Wrightsville Beach


WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WWAY) —  It’s an evening of exhilaration from kids and families out on Wrightsville Beach. The Indo Jax Surf Charities kicked off their three day surf camp Tuesday for kids with disabilities.

Before these kids even hit the sand they’re battling visual impairment, autism, cancer, the loss of their family and more. All of that seems to wash away as they hit the water with coaches.

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“I get to be with one of the coaches and I get to surf. That’s what I like most,” said Lucas Benton who has surfed now for three years and is also visually impaired. “First time he did it kind of scared us because the first thing they did was take him way out there,” said Lucas’s grandfather David. “And they paddled right out and he did good and he really enjoys it.”

Surf camps by non-profit Indo Jax Charities serve children facing a variety of life challenges, including visual impairment, autism, cancer, loss of parents, and juvenile diabetes. New on the summer schedule for 2019 is a session for Special Olympians.

“We always start wherever the child is in their life. Every child has a different goal,” said Jack Viorel, founder of Indo Jax Surf Charities. “Some children are working on mobility; others might be working on communication. Some are working on fear. We work on whatever the child needs. We don’t have a set agenda. When you do that you can always be successful.”

Twelve years and more than 5,000 students later, Viorel’s curriculum has gained international media attention and accolades from both parents and children.

“The most powerful thing we do is to help children get out of their comfort zone and succeed,” said Viorel. “When I was a school teacher, I always knew surfing could be used to build confidence and self-esteem in children with special needs.”

No child is turned away from the special needs surf camps due to inability to pay.

“Thanks to individuals and organizations like Live Oak Bank, United Healthcare, the Jordan Spieth Foundation, and Blockade Runner Beach Resort, we can keep up with most of the demand,” said Viorel. “The last two years, our Autism camps filled and were closed to new registrations. We’re still working to hold more programs to accommodate the needs of these children.”

The surfing events will take place from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. through Thursday with the Special Olympian surfing set for Friday evening.