In 2004, former Morro Bay Surf Company’s owners, Nate Ditmore and Anthony Randazzo Jr., brainstormed with John Taylor about getting local kids on board during the summertime.
With an artificial limb, he wouldn’t have qualified to go to existing surf camps, Taylor remarked. There the idea germinated to create Project Surf Camp, an experience offering kids with special needs four hours on a surfboard — supported by specialists and volunteers.
Taylor is now board chairman of the charitable organization, which was boosted into the national spotlight in 2010 when it was featured on NBC’s “Today” show and won $50,000 as the runner-up in the Pepsi Refresh Project.
Executive Director Katy Davis said, “John and many original volunteer groups and specialists are involved. We now partner with Morro Bay recreation. Our camp sessions, volunteers and donations are growing, but we keep the sessions to 12 campers and 4-to-1 ratio of supervised help. Last summer we had 500 volunteers. Many come as far as New York, Arizona and Texas to Morro Bay for a ‘volunteer vacation.’ Most are local. Camp specialist and (Lompoc) Maple High School teacher Matt Makowetski is bringing fellow teachers to volunteer. I was overwhelmed by Cal Poly students’ fundraising support last year.”
Makowetski also inspired Michael Williams of San Luis Sports Therapy to choose Project Surf Camp as the beneficiary of his community barbecue.
“We select different projects to support. This year 250 attended to help Project Surf Camp. We raised $2,500 and replaced $1,000 worth of wetsuits after the break-in of their equipment trailer,” Williams said.
Between this past Friday and Aug. 10, 16 public camp sessions are planned.
“This might be the most independent experience these campers will face in a lifetime,” Davis said. “Their parents are amazed their child experiences such success. Our volunteers don’t need to surf. They are given instruction by our specialists. Some campers need more help. Others need cheering support.”
Morro Bay police Chief Amy Christie is excited to participate for the first time.
“I get to get wet twice for our department and Morro Bay Rotary. When we can get sworn peace officers together with our youth, we are building relations so kids know we’re the good guys.”
An avid surfer since 1975, she chases the big waves to relax.
A past volunteer, Morro Bay City Clerk Jamie Boucher, is coordinating the Rotary Day on Saturday.
“I don’t surf and the ocean scares me, but camp is so worth it. The kids empower you back.”
To volunteer or register for camp, call Katy Davis at 903-2724. On the web at www.projectsurfcamp.com.
Judy Salamachas column is special to The Tribune. Reach her at 801-1422 or firstname.lastname@example.org.