Healing foster kids one wave at a time

Urban surf for kids includes surf camps, mentoring programs, a mobile after-school program that focuses on STEM education

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire)- There are almost a half a million children living in foster care right now across the United States. Some of those are staying with foster parents, others in group homes.

Many of those children suffered from neglect, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse by their own mothers and fathers. The trauma they experienced can impact them for their entire lives. But now, one group is using the ocean to help them heal, and the impact goes far beyond what happens in the water.

“I was in foster care 2,805 days,” 13-year-old Mackenzie Donalson explains.

Mackenzie and her identical twin sister Peyton are part of a group of past and present foster kids using surf therapy to help them heal.

“I was 15 and I was actually actively looking for something to call my family,” now 19-year-old Nephtali Ramos said. She had been in and out of five foster homes and found what she was looking for here at urban surf for kids. “It was a life-changing event for me,” Ramos further explains.

“We have this, this feeling of ‘ohana’, which is the Hawaiian term for chosen family. We try to help give them this opportunity to feel like they’re surrounded by friends and family,” Roxanne Avant, the executive director of Surf 4 Kids states.

Avant brings together caring adults to help guide these children in and out of the water.

“Being out in nature has a very therapeutic element.” Avant explains of the program.

Craig Jenkins, the president of the organization, states that, “when we take them out there, you know, they’re listening to their instructor, they’re paddling, they’re seeing the wave coming in. I stand up for those 30 seconds. Your mind was clear and that’s the healing property.”

Mary Guerin brought her granddaughter here six years ago, “ehen she started, when she was five, she was afraid of the water. You know, multiple traumas that she had been through, and surfing has been her life.”

Libby Donalson, Foster Mom and Board Member of the organization says, “the best thing about this is it’s a fun, positive outlet for them. They can relate to the other kids.”

Now, almost a thousand kids a year experience what it’s like to ride the waves.

“It’s scary but fun at the same time,” says 9-year-old Grace Deveraux.

Eighteen-year-old Malachi Donalson says, “when I’m out there, I forget everything.”

“When I stood up from sitting to standing, it was a little hard, but I untangled my legs, and I just went for it,” Mackenzie Donalson beams.

Urban surf for kids includes surf camps, mentoring programs, a mobile after school program that focuses on stem education, and the achievement program that teaches teens life-skills, teens who complete the six-month program are awarded an all-expense paid trip to Hawaii to meet some of the top surfing athletes in the world. For many of them, it’s their first experience outside of San Diego.

Source: https://www.ifoster.org/blogs/6-quick-statistics-on-the-current-state-of-foster-care/#:~:text=There%20are%20approximately%20424%2C000%20foster,foster%20care%20has%20been%20increasing

Contributor(s) to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa Videographer and Editor. To receive a free weekly email on Smart Living from Ivanhoe, sign up at: http://www.ivanhoe.com/ftk


About the Authors:

Roslyn Jimenez is a news producer for GMSA at KSAT12. Roslyn joined the KSAT12 team in January 2020 after being the First Edition producer for KIII-TV in Corpus Christi.

RJ Marquez has been at KSAT since 2010. He's covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area, and is the lead reporter for KSAT Explains. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms. You can see RJ regularly on KSAT Explains and Good Morning San Antonio. He also writes a weekly Spurs newsletter.