Surf for All, a Long Beach-based non-profit that organizes surf outings for children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities — as well as war veterans and disadvantaged youth — held its annual fundraiser on April 20 at The Loft in Island Park.
More than 300 people turned out for the organization’s 15th anniversary celebration, which raised $25,000 to be used to purchase adaptive surfing equipment and to local athletes to the U.S. Paralympics Nationals in California, and for private and group lessons throughout the summer without any charge to the participants.
Surf for All is also preparing to host the first ever Special Olympic trials this summer.
The event featured live music by The Zebulonites and raffle prizes, including the grand prize — an all-inclusive trip to Puerto Rico. The raffles also included signed memorabilia by Long Beach natives Will Skudin, professional boxer Seanie Monaghan and Boston Bruin Charlie McAvoy.
Co-founder Cliff Skudin and former state Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg spoke about how Surf For All has changed hundreds of lives, not only those of disabled athletes, but also coaches, instructors, families and volunteers.
"The ocean is a healing force and we are blessed to be able to share it with so many people," Skudin said in a statement.
Cliff and his brother, professional big-wave surfer Will Skudin, founded Surf for All in 2002 with Jim Mulvaney, the father of an autistic son, and Weisenberg, whose son, Ricky, has special needs.
Surf for All works with children and adults with a range of disabilities, as well as those with life-threatening illnesses. Most students ride a board in tandem with instructors, though some are eventually able to navigate the waves on their own with motorized surfboards and other adaptive equipment.
Last year, Surf for All launched a new adaptive surf camp at New York Beach Club in Atlantic Beach, sponsored by the Harvey and Ellen Weisenberg Foundation, that is the first of its kind in New York.
Cliff said that the April 20 event reunited original Surf for All participants Weisenberg and Dan Mulvaney, who were in the ocean together for the initial session in 2002. Weisenberg and Mulvaney were featured in a Washington Post story last summer about how Weisenberg, a veteran lifeguard and noted disabilities rights advocate, recently convinced Mulvaney, who has autism, to get back into the ocean after a several-year hiatus.
Surf for All also honored two veteran Surf For All athletes — Sean McGrath, 20, a Valley Stream native known as the “Orange Bullet” because of his signature neon colored surf helmet; and Grace Graczyk, 12, of Long Beach, “who classed up the party with her signature princess costume.”
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky and Assemblywoman Melissa Miller presented McGrath and Graczyk with plaques acknowledging their accomplishments in the ocean. The Long Beach City Council also sent plaques honoring the two surfers.