OCEAN CITY — Surfers Healing made its fifth trip back to Ocean City on Wednesday, attracting record numbers despite some weather scares the day prior.
The day-long surfing camp helps children with special needs and their families have at least one perfect day a year. It is a decades’ old national organization but the recent addition Ocean City is quickly becoming a staple and a summer tradition for many.
“We’ve grown to be one of the larger camps really quick,” said co-organizer Woody German.
Wednesday’s all-day surf camp, which included other games, events and music, had more than 200 children registered to surf with dozens more joining them and their families on the beach to cheer them on. While the weather took a rough turn the day before the event, by Wednesday the sky was clear and the water was glassy.
There was also a large waiting list for both families and volunteers to participate. It seems that the entire region and beyond has really gotten behind Surfers Healing on the Eastern Shore, said German.
“The need for it is more and more every year and we’re seeing that every year we get a couple more kids than the year before. We’d love to take everybody but obviously we can’t,” he said.
But even the kids and families who aren’t there for the professionally-run surf camp are still in for an uncommon, and often much needed, holiday from the stresses and pressures of normal daily life. People headed to Ocean City from across the country this week for the event. For many, it was their second, third or more year coming to the resort for Surfers Healing.
The Contrino family, hailing from Bel Air, Md, has visited the shore for three years running. Their son Michael looks forward to hitting the waves
all year, according to his parents. The camp is something that he freely talks about, which is extraordinary since he doesn’t often break out into unsolicited remarks.
“He talks about this all year. He doesn’t solicit speech too often but this is one of the things that he talks about,” said father Paul Contrino.
The professional surfers, volunteers and other organizers who run the event have been an incredibly positive force on his son’s life, Paul Contrino added, noting their enthusiasm in particular as infectious for the kids.
Surfers Healing serves as the lynch pin in the families main summer vacation as well, and the entire group loves to explore Ocean City.
“We make it a week event, too, when we come down. We stay right here on the beach so we’re here all week,” said Terry Contrino, Michael’s mother.
Another local family returning to the resort for Surfers this year is the Jensens. While their young son James does get a little anxious around the water, mother Beth Jensen feels that the community experience is a vital one for her family.
“We stay here all day. Just to be able to be around people who are going through what you’re going through, the families, you can just be yourself,” she said. “You don’t have to worry about if your child is doing something that other people don’t understand.”
Since everyone at the event can relate to or experienced with special needs children, all involved have an instant bond that make them feel like old friends or family, according to Eric Jensen, James’ father.
Coming in from Annapolis, the Jensens will also be making a vacation of Surfers Healing, taking their son James and daughter Ella around Ocean City after surf time is over. This was their fourth year heading down to the camp.
German, the Cotrinos and the Jensens all agreed that at its core Surfers Healing is about giving kids with special needs at least one day a year where they are “rock stars.” Spending time on the ocean has always been calming, healing and unlike anything else in the world, remarked German.
“There’s just something about the waves, if you’ve ever been on a surfboard out beyond where the waves break, it’s magical,” he said.
For more information visit www.surfershealing.org or like Surfers Healing Ocean City, MD on Facebook.