Sunday 26 November 2017 is a date that will live on in my memory for a very long time. This is the day that I along with members of NSR St9 in Gordon’s bay went surfing with two very special Children from Iris House children’s Hospice. As I woke up, I had no idea what to expect as I had never done anything remotely like this. Today however, no amount of training could prepare me for the life changing experience that was to happen.
The team and I met briefly at our base in Gordon’s bay to collect life jackets, radios and everything we thought we might need and made our way to Strand Lifesaving club. We met the very friendly Alana Scholtz, manager of the club, along with the medical team from ER24. After a small tour we got dressed in wetsuits. The adaptive surf team, led by Albert Millard soon arrived and the day was set to begin. Albert along with Bartleman brothers from Bartleman surf school in Hermanus taught us how adaptive surfing works and showed us the special surf board used for this kind of surfing. Irina Mink from Iris house was there as well will her very special surfing dog Leia. The rescue crew fell in love with Leia from the start.
The children Arrived and everyone could not wait to meet them. Little Christiaan Klopper was dressed in his wetsuit first and could not wait to get outside and meet the team for the day. Christiaan suffers from borderline Autism which means that he does not speak or make eye contact but dishes out high fives like candy. Next we met the young lady who would go into the water first. Tessa Shaffer has Cerebral Palsy and I cannot describe the pure unfiltered excitement in her eyes when she met the team and headed off to the water. Big sis also joined her on the board for a few waves.
Tessa rode wave after wave and although she cannot communicate with words, her face and body language showed exactly how she felt. Then it was time for Leia the surfing dog to join the fun and get on the board with her and off they went. Christiaan was next on the board with his dad and boy did he enjoy that. We surfed with them until Christiaan was exhausted and almost fell asleep in his mom’s arms. Tessa was ready for more and we took her back into the fray for a few more waves with her dad on the board with her. As an added bonus to my day I got to surf a few waves with Leia the surfing dog.
Watching people come together to do something so special for these adorable children makes your heart swell with pride and instantly restore one’s faith in humanity. And it’s right there where these children give you the biggest reward of all. Pure love and appreciation. We received so many thank you’s from Iris house and the Surf team but this time I thought the thank you should be from us. These very special children and equally special people that work with them have crawled into my heart today and have given me a lot more than I have given them today.
Francois van Eeden