Since 2012, MossRehab has sent a volunteer corps of rehab therapists, doctors, nurses and supporters to They Will Surf Again, a free, one-day event that gets people with spinal cord injuries into the ocean and riding waves with the help of volunteers and special, adaptive surf boards.
The 2022 event took place on Sunday, August 7th in Wildwood, NJ.
They Will Surf Again is the flagship program of Life Rolls On, a nonprofit that serves as a resource and advocate for young people whose lives have been affected by spinal cord injury. Life Rolls On utilizes action sports to push the boundary of possibility for those with spinal cord injuries. The public is invited to attend the event, meet volunteers and surfers, and learn about living with disabilities.
To date, MossRehab has sent over 500 volunteers to They Will Surf Again. The volunteers help people with disabilities get up and down the beach using special wheelchairs, get in and out of wet-suits and assist surfers in the water as they ride the waves.
"We're thrilled to have MossRehab involved with us," says Chad DeSatnick, who organizes They Will Surf Again events in New Jersey. "To have actual therapists and rehab specialists who are trained to properly handle persons with disabilities means proper techniques are used, assuring safety, comfort and dignity for the surfers."
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 boards 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 board donations 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 features cut-outs of the students' hands with words that come 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 institutions such as Philadelphia Museum of Art and the New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame.
After two years of participating in They Will Surf Again with the assistance of volunteers, Jack Cavanaugh returned in 2016 as a volunteer himself. Jack came to MossRehab after a traumatic brain injury left him comatose for a month. When he awoke, he couldn't walk, communicate, or swallow. Persistence, determination and his #ChallengeAccepted attitude helped him through rehab and recovery. In this video, he and his father, Jack Sr., share their story.
Here are videos from past events:
Here are some photos from They Will Surf Again 2015:
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