By MEGAN MOSELEY
Tribune-Herald staff writer
When Kalani Kahalioumi brought the first Surf Camp for Children with Autism to the Big Island four years ago, it was a chance to share his passion with the community in a new way.
“The thing about this whole experience is that we, as surfers, surf because of the special feeling that we get when we catch the wave and it’s addictive. It’s an addictive feeling,” he said. “And when you surf with the kids, the kids get to experience that same type of feeling. So upstairs, it’s something different, something out of the ordinary for the individuals who come and surf with us.”
Kahalioumi, along with volunteers with Surfers Healing, a nonprofit organization for children with autism, gathered at 9 a.m. Saturday at Richardson Beach Park to spread the joy of surfing with more than 40 local autistic children and their loved ones. The event was free to the public and made possible by Hawaii Behavioral Health, the County of Hawaii and Ocean Safety.
Kahalioumi, a professional surfer and boogie boarder from Hilo, joined the Surfers Healing Foundation 12 years ago. His friend, Israel Paskowitz, started the organization with his wife after discovering the therapeutic effects surfing had on their autistic child. Sixteen years later, Surfers Healing and its camps have grown nationwide. Hilo was the 32nd and final event of the year.
Lisa Tostenson attended the camp with her six-year-old granddaughter, Kianna Meyer. While the two waited patiently for what would be Meyer’s first surfing experience, watching as participants bravely made their way out to the water, Tostenson said it’s days like Saturday that give her hope.
“Sometimes you can feel like you’re on an island on your own island,” Meyer said about having a child with autism.
“But, it’s something we all need to focus on,” she said. “One in 88 kids are born with autism. We need to embrace these individuals and enhance our awareness because they’re part of society too.”
For more information about Surfers Healing visit surfershealing.org
Email Megan Moseley at firstname.lastname@example.org.