By Sara Hall | Contributor


Photo by MJM Photography (2).jpg

Photo courtesy of Miracles for Kids

Playing on the sand and in the water is typical for a summer beach day in Orange County, but for some kids it’s so much more.


Surf & Paddle Summer Camp invites children (5-18 years old) with life-threatening illnesses, and their siblings, to join Miracles for Kids to experience a day or two of stress-free summer activities at the beach. Parents can also attend to take part in the fun.


Miracles for Kids is an Irvine-based nonprofit that helps families with critically-ill children fight bankruptcy, homelessness, hunger and depression — so they can fight for their kids’ lives. The group helps provide monthly financial aid, subsidized housing, food and clothing, and counseling.

Going from the boardroom to the surfboard, President and Founder of Irvine-based Redrock Technologies, Inc., and Miracles for Kids board member, Tom Swanecamp, founded the surf program in 2010.


Swanecamp created the camp as a way for the kids to get out of the hospital and into the water for a fun day of play like any other kid during summer.


“I started this program with the intent of lifting the spirits of these kids and their families who need a break from hospital rooms and all of the stress that comes with childhood illnesses,” says Swanecamp. “To watch the kids’ eyes light up the second they step on the beach is such an amazing feeling, and I truly look forward to this program all year.”


The annual summer camp allows the kids to play and splash in the water, build sandcastles, and learn surf and stand-up paddle techniques from the experts at Waves of Impact, a volunteer organization based in Irvine.


Waves of Impact, in collaboration with Boardriders Foundation, provides free surf camps nationwide in California, Texas, New Jersey and Massachusetts for children with special needs, as well as for wounded veterans. The organization has been a longtime sponsor of the Miracles for Kids Surf & Paddle Summer Camp Program, supplying both the boards and surf instructors each year.

Waves of Impact’s mission is to introduce these individuals to the thrill of riding waves while focusing on building and rebuilding confidence in those who need it most.


“Our mission is to show those with exceptional struggles the joys of being in the ocean — and to provide a fun day at the beach that they might not have otherwise,” says Waves of Impact Co-Founder Keith Lovgren.


Each year, the Surf & Paddle Summer Camp returns to local coastal beach towns, like Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, for an unforgettable experience of beach therapy and the joys of childhood. This year’s camps will take place in August.


The camp typically includes a lunch break, a variety of beach activities, an awards ceremony for the kids, and transportation from Children’s Hospital of Orange County. Between 20 to 30 kids usually join in on the fun each day.


“Every year, Surf & Paddle provides two uplifting days for kids and their families who often spend their days in hospital rooms,” says Miracles for Kids Co-Founder and CEO Autumn Strier. “We are so thankful to Tom Swanecamp, Waves of Impact, Boardriders Foundation and our other supporters for making this memorable experience possible for the families in our program.”


As a nearly 100% sponsored program, the Miracles for Kids Surf & Paddle Summer Camp Program is made possible by the passion and philanthropic spirit of many volunteers and sponsors coming together.


Many of the families assisted by Miracles for Kids are in ire need of financial help, so a family beach day and surfing lessons are often new experiences.


“They’re at, near or below the national poverty level, so to get to a beach is something that some of them are doing for the first time in their lives,” says Swanecamp. “Some of them don’t have bathing suits or the resources to get to the beach.”


Miracles for Kids is one of the only organizations on the West Coast that provides monthly financial aid, subsidized housing, and counseling to families fighting for their child’s life. The organization has helped more than 1,500 families with some of the emotional and financial devastation caused by childhood disease.


“When a child is diagnosed it isn’t just the child that is affected,” says Swanecamp. “Most of the time, one of the parents has to leave their job to support the child. They were already financially challenged and now it’s gotten worse. Miracles for Kids supports them with resources for emotional as well as financial support.”


Swanecamp is also a board member for Waves of Impact and a longtime supporter of both organizations.


“Getting that classic ‘wave of their life’ is always great,” Swanecamp adds. “But sometimes it’s just enabling them to enjoy the beach. To take it easy. It also allows the parents a much-needed break from what is assuredly a stressful time. They trust that their kids will be happy and cared for in the company of experts and volunteers. It’s a beautiful day.”


Swanecamp, a Boston native, moved to Southern California in the late 1980s. He has worked in the telecommunications industry for more than 25 years. As a longtime Dana Point resident, he has been very active in the local nonprofit community for many years, working with a number of organizations that serve children and teens in need or at risk, as well as wounded veterans.


For more information, visit MIRACLESFORKIDS.COM