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North Carolina Special Needs Charity Gaining Global Attention
WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC – A small North Carolina charity is gaining global attention for its free programs designed to build self-esteem and empower medically fragile, special needs, and disadvantaged children. Featured in dozens of media including American Way Magazine and TEDx Talks, Indo Jax Surf Charities will be the subject of a one-hour special on the Oprah Winfrey Network in August 2017.
Indo Jax Surf Charities uses the ocean as a classroom and surfing as a learning tool. “We believe the ocean has unique healing properties with an ever-changing, unpredictable environment,” said founder, Jack Viorel. “Getting into the ocean and learning to surf, especially special needs children, is a life-long lesson about stepping out of your comfort zone, into unpredictability, and removing limitations. Everything in life has a bit of fear. We teach the kids that it’s okay to be afraid.”
“Our programs build higher self-confidence and teach a system children can apply to any situation or hurdle in the future,” said Viorel. “They leave with a formula to be more successful, conquer more challenges, and the ability to deal with fear.”
“I encourage anybody thinking about it to go for it,” said Eric Stanley, parent of 11-year old Jaylen, who is unable to see and is courageously battling Juvenile Batten disease. “Jack and his team are great. They’re very patient and know how to work with kids. A parent does not have to worry – they are one-on-one with the children, working with them and watching all the time.”
With programs in North Carolina, California, Nicaragua and India, the Indo Jax schedule includes camps specifically formatted for autism, visual impairment, childhood cancer, cystic fibrosis, Boys and Girls Clubs, Children of Belarus, the Boys and Girls Home of Lake Waccamaw, inclusion camps, and special needs camps.
Indo Jax Surf Charities began when Jack Viorel was a first-grade teacher at Saint Mary’s Elementary in Wilmington, NC. “The school provided a program for kids born with AIDS,” said Viorel. “I thought about taking them surfing, believing this would be good for their self-esteem and physical issues. The program coordinator talked me into running three camps that summer.”
“Prior to surf camp, many of the children with AIDS had stopped taking their medication, knew they were dying, had skin issues, were ostracized, and had low self-esteem,” said Viorel. “By the end of the summer, I knew we were on to something big. The children started to open up, their skin issues improved, many of them went back on their medication, they wanted to surf again and be healthy enough to do it, and started talking about future plans.”
With this success, Viorel retired from his 20-year teaching career and has spent a decade honing and expanding his charity for special needs children.
In 2017, Indo Jax Surf Charities will serve and assist about 1,000 children, at no charge. “We take on the responsibility of raising the money,” said Viorel. “Most families with medically fragile, special needs, or at-risk children are struggling to make ends meet.”
The surf camp program is funded by contributions from individuals, businesses, foundations and corporate sponsors. “United Health Care has supported the program for three years, The Jordan Spieth Foundation came onboard last year, and this year Live Oak Bank joined the team,” said Viorel. “Blockade Runner Beach Resort has been a solid supporter.”
The Hero Effect, co-hosted by former Super Bowl Champion Donald Driver and actress/advocate Emily Wilson, will feature Indo Jax Surf Charities on the Oprah Winfrey Network on Saturday, August 12, at 10 AM. A premiere showing will be held in Wrightsville Beach on Thursday, August 10, at Blockade Runner Beach Resort. “They’ve donated the ballroom and we’re going to have a big showing,” said Viorel. “This is very exciting for us.”
2017 Surf Camp Schedule
June 13-15: Autism – Wrightsville Beach
June 27-29: Children of Belarus – Wrightsville Beach
June 28: Autism – Half Moon Bay, CA
*July 6: Mauli Ola Foundation for CF – Wrightsville Beach
July 10-13: Visually Impaired – Wrightsville Beach
July 17-19: Special Needs – Pismo Beach, CA
July 26: Autism – Half Moon Bay, CA
Aug 1-3: Boys and Girls Home of Waccamaw – Wrightsville Beach
Aug 2: Autism – Half Moon Bay, CA
Aug 15-17: Childhood Cancer – Wrightsville Beach
*Aug 21: Surfers Healing – Wrightsville Beach
Nov 2017: Nicaragua Outreach
Apr 2018: India Surf Safari for Orphan Girls
Jack Viorel, director
Indo Jax Surf Charities
Robert B Butler
Communications | PR
To learn more about The Hero Effect:
To learn more about Batten disease:
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Special Needs Summer Camp – Who is teaching who?
WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC – “Some people look at individuals with disabilities and think, ‘Oh, we’re going to have to help them a lot.’ The result is actually the opposite,” said Maddie Ashcraft, seven-year summer camp instructor. Ashcraft says her students have taught her more than she has ever taught them.
“Children facing challenges have a lot to give – they are the teachers,” agreed Jack Viorel, Ashcraft’s camp mentor and founder of nonprofit Indo Jax Surf Charities. “With each summer camp, special needs students teach us more about the important things – innovation, persistence, courage to overcome obstacles, joy and laughter, patience and compassion.”
Kim Kredich, mom to three children, one of whom is on the autism spectrum, describes the summer camps as “so refreshing.”
During the weekend of May 25-27, Kredich will bring families from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, for a new and inclusive Indo Jax Surf Charities experience based at Blockade Runner Beach Resort.
“Ten of the 27 children coming have disabilities. The other 17 do not. They will learn to surf right alongside each other,” Kredich said.
“When we are inclusive and help each other, we all learn and benefit,” said Viorel. “The teachers become the students and the students become the teachers and the world becomes a better place.”
Viorel began his teaching career 25 years ago in a classroom with medically fragile, special needs, and at-risk kids. Ten years ago he moved his family to Wilmington, North Carolina and opened a surf school as a means to reach children and open their minds.
The new inclusive camp is the first on a summer-long schedule of charity outreach surf camps that will serve — at no cost to the campers — visually impaired, autistic, and hearing impaired individuals, as well as boys and girls club members, wounded soldiers, cancer survivors, and participants with developmental and intellectual challenges.
“No one is born with a limiting belief. Limiting beliefs are learned and taught,” said Viorel. “When we stop putting limiting beliefs on a special needs child, the sky is the limit. Our goal is to help a child shed limiting beliefs and uncover their confidence and self-esteem again.”
“To find an experience for your kids where you don’t have to do battle, where your kids can relax and learn something new, where — as a parent — you don’t have to wonder whether they’re being taken care of and having a good experience — well, that just doesn’t happen very often,” said Kredich.
Kredich said the camps are an important example for schools and other institutions when it comes to inclusion. “If a surf camp can manage full inclusion, nobody else has an excuse to leave anyone out,” she said.
In addition to the free special needs summer camps, Viorel includes anyone with disabilities into the regular surf camp schedule with no additional fee. “I’d love it if everyone signed up whenever they wanted to come,” said Viorel. “Right now, though, those special weeks provide peace of mind for families trying this for the first time.”
A “Kickoff to Summer” party to help fund the free charity surf camps will be hosted on June 2nd by long-time supporter Blockade Runner Beach Resort. Festivities will include silent auctions, live music, surf camp footage, and more. Indo Jax Surf Charities is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. For event information visit www.indojaxsurfcharities.org.
2016 Charity Surf Camp Schedule
May 25-27: Inclusive Surf Camp
May 31-June 2: Boys and Girls Club
June 14-16: Cancer
June 21-23: Kids from Belarus
July 11-14: Visually Impaired
July 26-28: Hearing Impaired
Aug. 9-11: Waccammaw Home for Boys and Girls
Aug. 24-26: Autism-Aug. 22 is Surfers Healing
Sept. 10: Wounded Military surf camp