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Persons with Disabilities Surf at They Will Surf Again August 7

Aug 09 2022

A group of volunteers carries a surfboard with a child riding on top.

(Elkins Park, PA)
 Since 2012, MossRehab, now part of Jefferson Health, has served as the presenting sponsor of They Will Surf Again a free, one-day event in Wildwood, New Jersey, that provides persons with disabilities the chance to ride the waves and enjoy a day at the beach. More importantly, MossRehab has also sent over 500 rehabilitation therapists, doctors, nurses and supporters to volunteer.

And after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they did it again, making that volunteer total 600!

On Sunday, August 7,  MossRehab's 90+ volunteer corps, (along with hundreds of other volunteers) were back helping 70 persons with disabilities get up and down the beach using special beach wheelchairs, get in and out of wet-suits and assisted surfers in the water as they rode the waves. (They Will Surf Again is the flagship program of Life Rolls On, a nonprofit that serves as a resource and advocate for people who have been affected by spinal cord injury and other disabilities. Life Rolls On utilizes action sports to push the boundaries of possibility for those with spinal cord injuries.)

"All the volunteers at MossRehab looked forward to getting back to the beach and into the waves with our surfers," said MossRehab Chief Operating Officer (and long-time volunteer)  Thomas Smith. "It has been incredibly rewarding, and fun,  to be part of They Will Surf Again as it grows every year, and I'm incredibly proud of all the staff, and their families, who give back in this unique and meaningful way."

"We're incredibly thankful to have MossRehab as a sponsor and to provide so many volunteers that are trained to assist our surfers," said Jesse Billauer, founder of Life Rolls On and an adaptive surfing champion. "To have actual therapists and rehab specialists who are trained to properly assist and interact with persons with disabilities intermingled with our other volunteers means proper techniques are used. That assures safety, comfort and dignity for the surfers."

But hands-on expertise isn't all that MossRehab brings to They Will Surf Again.

Since 2015,  MossRehab has partnered with local surfboard shaper and NJ middle school teacher Luke Alvarez (owner of Generic Brand Surfboards) to create surfboards designed specifically for surfers with disabilities. Working with input from MossRehab therapists and surfers who have participated in They Will Surf Again events, the surfboards have large proportions, making them extremely stable and capable of carrying the weight of two riders (a surfer and volunteer) when necessary. Also, The decks of the boards feature thick pads for comfort and grip and attachment points for adjustable hand straps.  Mr. Alvarez also uses the boards to teach his students at Carusi Middle School in Cherry Hill, NJ about the importance of accessibility and inclusiveness.  Each year, students (some who have disabilities themselves) design inspirational artwork that is laminated onto the board. This year's artwork featured cut-outs of the students' hands with words that came to mind when they were told about They Will Surf Again, including KINDNESS, LOVE, HAPPINESS and TRUST.   These unique surfboards are one-of-a kind works of art and symbols of inclusiveness. As such, they have been displayed at institutions such as Philadelphia Museum of Art and the New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame.

"I was excited to get back with MossRehab after a 2- year pandemic delay to shape another adaptive surfboard to be used by persons with disabilities," said Alvarez. "This relationship has allowed me to involve students at Carusi to help create things that help other people in a tangible way. Plus, going to Wildwood for the event is amazing!"


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