A Hummel Report Investigation
Autism and water. It has proven to be a magical combination for thousands of children across the country participating in a program called Surfers Healing. Last month 180 autistic children and their families descended on Narragansett Town Beach for a day that many found hard to put into words. Jim Hummel was there to capture it.
Click HERE to learn more about Surfers Healing.
By 8 o'clock on a Saturday morning in September the waves are slowly starting to build under crystal clear skies at Narragansett Town Beach. It's a good omen for hundreds who will arrive shortly for a day of surfing.
And while there are professional surfers here from California and Hawaii - the focus will clearly be on 180 autistic children. They and their families have descended on Narragansett from as far as Maryland for a program called Surfers Healing. It is the 5th year the day-long camp has been held in Rhode Island.
DeSimone: ``Everyone's been perfect. It's like we've had a Xerox of the day for the five camps. It's been the exact same day.''
Rich DeSimone's 14-year-old son Anthony was diagnosed with autism more than a decade ago. DeSimone listened to the same words all of the parents here have heard.
DeSimone: ``I was in complete denial.''
Hummel: ``Did it register for you when they said autism what you were in for?''
DeSimone: ``No, no.''
Hummel: ``So you had to do a little research on your own.''
DeSimone: ``Yes, but even with research it was denial. He had delay in his speech but it was... he's gonna talk, I mean who doesn't talk?''
It was the same year DeSimone found out he had lung cancer. The family hit both challenges head on.
DeSimone: ``We don't do the woe is me routine around here. This is our life, we don't project it on anybody.''
Desimone and his wife heard about Surfers Healing, a national program begun 15 years ago by Izzy Paskowitz, part of a legendary California surfing family. His own son Isaiah is profoundly autistic. The DeSimones took Anthony to three camps in New York and New Jersey. It convinced them to bring Surfers Healing to Rhode Island in 2009 and to raise the $10,000 needed to do it.
They had 50 kids the first year.