Long Beach resident Keanu Resnick, 13, popped up on his surfboard excitedly and rode a wave with his instructor while family, friends and teachers cheered him on from the beach.
His mother, Elsie, snapped a picture after he showed her the Band-Aid on his palm, the result of a scrape while surfing. Keanu smiled when his father, Douglas, teased him about how the girls at school would love it.
Keanu was one of nearly 20 kids from the Albertson-based Henry Viscardi School for children with severe physical disabilities who came to National Boulevard beach for a day of surfing last week.
On July 17, Surf For All, a Long Beach-based nonprofit that introduces people with disabilities and special needs to surfing, hosted the second annual Henry Viscardi School surf outing. Surf For All founders Jim Mulvaney and Cliff and Will Skudin were on hand, and Mulvaney explained that getting acquainted with the ocean is often a major breakthrough for people with disabilities.
“It’s probably one of their first introductions into non-pool water,” Mulvaney said. “It’s a completely different experience that we all take for granted. Here, nobody treats them as less than athletes.”
The outing was held in memory of the late Connor Troy, a Long Beach resident and a former Viscardi School student who died in April 2013 after battling a severe neurological disease. “Connor was a nice friend to us,” Keanu said.
Connor’s mother, Kerry Ann Troy, recalled how her son loved the color yellow, and always wanted to ride a yellow surfboard before he died, but he never had the chance. “Cliff and Will always wanted to get Connor on a surfboard,” she said. “When Connor died, we lost the connection to the school. We figured we would do it for his friends.”
The first Surf For All outing for disabled children, in 2002, had only a handful of students, one of whom was Mulvaney’s autistic son, Dan. The program has expanded to include outings for those with diabetes, cancer, cerebral palsy, visual impairment and severe physical disabilities. The organization also works with the Long Beach Waterfront Warriors, which assists injured and ill U.S. veterans (see page 11).