Sean Swentek founder of the non-profit shared with us his vision for creating the organization and what the future holds.
"Walk on Water" was founded in September of 2013, we're about four years old now.
This really was born out of an idea that Pat Notaro had. He wanted to really carry on the legacy of his father after his father suddenly passed away a few years ago. He was an avid water-man and really was involved in charitable causes.
Pat had initially lead his father's name and created a Pat Notaro Memorial Surf Day here at Malibu, and it was run by the Surfers Healing Program for many years.
When I met Pat through Surfers Healing and we talked a lot about a shared passion for charitable causes and the idea that we really wanted to try and do something on our own, something a little different, something that was super inclusive. One of our biggest goals is really trying to understand the full family dynamic that comes with families of children with special needs.
Often, there's the separation that occurs where the child with special needs is treated differently and experiences different things than their other siblings and the rest of the family. We really wanted to do an event where we could bridge that gap between "neurotypical sibling" along with the sibling with special needs out on the water together. Experiencing something together so they'd have something to bond over and at the same time.
Plus allow the parents and the rest of the family to come, have a relaxing day at the beach, something to sort of unwind from the day-to-day...what's really a 24-7, 365 job of raising a child with special needs and that's why we really take everything off their hands.
They just come down to the beach, we take their kid, we walk 'em over, put a wet-suit and life jacket on 'em, we get 'em in the water, we're with them the whole time in the water, we have all these water safety people talking to 'em, calming them down. They get to experience that stoke of catching a wave and this therapeutic sensation that occurs when you're in the ocean. Then when they come in, they're just all smiles and they really get this family-bonding time. It's really an incredible thing to witness.
We kinda knew right away after our first event that we were on to something pretty special, just based on the responses from the families and we've just been trying to grow it since, because the original families that came started showing their friends in the special needs community and the word just kinda spread organically and we started getting all these families wanting to come down and experience this. We knew we had to provide more opportunities, more events.
There's only so many kids you can take out and if that can still maintain that really close-knit, family feel that we wanna aim for and that's why you'll see so many volunteers at our events.
We really wanna make sure we have more volunteers than kids surfing so that there's this minimum one-to-one interaction going on where every kid is always being played with on the beach, taken out to body surf, catching a wave, whatever they're doing they're really enjoying themselves while they're out there.