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Surf program helps kids with disabilities

August 13, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A new surf program is helping kids with various disabilities.L.A. County lifeguard and occupational therapist, Carly Rogers, came up with the idea of using surfing as therapy for kids from troubled backgrounds or with physical and developmental disabilities.

The Jimmy Miller Foundation, named in honor of an avid surfer who died five years ago, teamed up with her to create the Ocean Therapy program. They enlist volunteer surfers, lifeguards and therapists to teach the kids.

Some of the kids learning to surf today live in foster homes and rarely even get to go to the beach. Learning to surf boosts their self-esteem and also offers lessons they can use in their lives.

"If they can't do a math problem they can get discouraged and say, 'Well I couldn't surf originally, but I can get back up on the board and now maybe I can go back and figure out my life a little bit better,'" said Nancy Miller from the Jimmy Miller Foundation.

As it turned out, the kids were quick studies with instructors giving constant guidance and lots of loving encouragement, even the most nervous in the group were soon having a ball.

"It feels just like you are walking on the waves and just getting out there having fun," said 11-year-old surfer Karina Solis.

"It is a lot of fun. Our partners keep saying that we are professionals," said 9-year-old surfer Aidan Solis.

The program has a great success rate. In just one lesson more than 90 percent of the kids are able to get up on their boards.

But the goal isn't simply to turn them into good surfers.

"It helps them believe in somebody. It helps them trust in themselves. It helps them overcome those challenges," said Rogers.

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