Forty-five Santa Barbara kids had an unforgettable day at the Leadbetter Beach June 4. Hosted by Best Day Foundation, the children with special needs got a chance to learn to surf and enjoy watersports that they might otherwise never get to play. The event provided specially certified instructors and staff, as well as all the necessary equipment.
Brooks Lambert, a passionate surfer and Santa Cruz local, founded Best Days in 2008 after working with a similar organization, Ride a Wave. The nonprofit spreads from Santa Cruz to San Diego, with chapters throughout the East Coast as well.
Lambert wanted a foundation that was for everyone. He stated that instead of focusing on a single disability, as many other organizations do, at Best Day, “you’re people first” and the disability comes second. Lambert organized teams that together are able to work with whatever the kids are experiencing and get them in the water to have fun.
The Santa Barbara chapter began in 2012. Lambert expressing his immense gratitude for the support of the volunteers, and community, that help make these events possible, and successful.
For the families whose children are involved, this event has greatly touched their lives. Keri Ferguson, a school nurse from Agoura Hills, often brings her daughter Scarlett, 6, who has cerebral palsy. With the help of Best Day, she can learn to surf and play in the water safely. Scarlett often asks when they’re going back, Ferguson said, with continued excitement. “It’s amazing because she’s cognitively all there … but she gets left out a lot by her peers because she can’t keep up … having a place to go where she can really get attention and praise from other people is amazing,” her mother stated. She explained how incredible it was that Best Day provided all the equipment her daughter needed. The teams went above and beyond to celebrate each attendee, Ferguson said, and to meet the kids at whatever level they were at.
Robert Marron started bringing his son Alan, 21, to Best Day, because the family isn’t big on water sports. Alan, who has autism, has become a terrific swimmer. Once he got over his initial uncertainty, he fell in love with the sport. Marron stated although Alan has difficulty with memory, “The minute he see’s the beach … he remembers, and his smile … it’s priceless.”
Marron is a crop grower, and his family resides in Lancaster. Whenever they bring Alan to Best Day, the whole family comes and makes a big day out of it. They’ve come to know several other families that attend as well. “There’s a lot of support … it’s like being at home with your family,” Marron stated. For Alan, it makes a world of difference because he’s able to go out and do something on his own. With the trained specialists, the family knows he’s in trusted hands and can let him have his own independence.