Children on crest of a wave at Surf2Heal
Surf2Heal, an initiative created to provide surfing for young people with Autism has now been firmly established as an annual event in Sligo.
Twenty-three young people took part in this year's camp at Streedagh, with participants coming from a number of counties, including Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal, Longford, Carlow and Rosommon. The chidren were supported by over forty volunteers from Sligo and beyond.
Initiated by Sligo Sport and Recreation Partnership (SSRP) through their Sports Inclusion Disability Project the programme is supported locally by County Sligo Surf Club, Point Break Surf School, the Irish Surfing Association, Sligo Autism Services and Sligo Volunteer Centre.
Shane Hayes, Sports Inclusion Disability Officer with SSRP, who oversees the programme emphasized the importance of all of these key partners in making Surf 2 Heal in Sligo the success that it has become. Both County Sligo Surf Club and Point Break Surf School provide surf boards, wet suits and qualified surfing personnel who help coordinate both the beach and water safety as well as providing their surfing expertise. The Irish Surfing Association gives their ISA Surf truck for the week which is invaluable in providing a base for the volunteers and instructors, as well as an ideal resource for providing much needed refreshments for all involved.
Sligo Volunteer Centre provided SSRP with assistance in the recruitment of volunteers to supervise the participants, which is a fundamental aspect of the programme. Each child is supervised and supported by up to four volunteers depending on their ability and confidence in the water, thus ensuring maximum participation, enjoyment and safety at all times. In addition, Sligo Autism Services provide key support to the programme through the training of volunteers in the area of autism awareness.
Nationally, Surf 2 Heal also support the initiative through the provision of Surf 2 Heal co-ordinator John Murphy, who, along with Ray McDaid of Point Break Surf School, helps to train, monitor and co-ordinate the volunteers in the water. This year, a mentoring system between John and one of the experienced Sligo volunteers Steve Boyle was put in place with the plan being to enable Steve to take over as the local Surf 2 Heal beach co-ordinator from 2014 onwards.
Anyone wishing to find out more about Sport for People with a disability can contact Shane Hayes, Sports Inclusion Disability Officer with Sligo Sport and Recreation Partnership on 071 9161511 or at firstname.lastname@example.org