My son Elliot came to your event in Montauk on 9/8. He’s 2 and has been in various therapies and has gone to many specialists and been through so much since he was born. I was born with a deep love for the water, and I’d say that’s the biggest trait I’ve passed down to him. He is most comfortable and having the most fun when he is in the water. Still, I was very nervous for this day. Nervous because he has airway defects, nervous because he’s only 2 and can’t actually swim. He calls it being a “swimming alligator” and lays on his belly and splashes.

All of that disappeared when we got there. Everyone was so welcoming and happy and kind. There was issues trying to get Elliot in his wetsuit because he was freaking out, everyone just talked very calmly to him and just kept going, Elliot does this thing when he is overwhelmed and throws himself on the floor – basically giving up- everyone just knelt down and played with him. When our instructor, Tom or as Elliot calls him “Mr Tom” came over he was so patient and sweet easing Elliot into the water. When he finally got him out there, I couldn’t help myself I had to go in the water because I’m a nervous mom, but he did amazing. After three times on his belly Tom turned to me and said “next time I’m getting him to stand up! “. And he did! I couldn’t believe the smile on Elliot’s face and everyone cheering. I seriously had tears.

When Elliot was done he was hysterical crying wanting to go more and Tom was so awesome and took him out again. He took him alllll the way out. The women next to me were laughing about how I’m brave, and of course I was nervous, but you guys never made me doubt the safety of my child. Elliot got his wave and man, this time I was actually wiping away my tears. I’ve never seen my son so beautiful and happy and at home. He came out screaming “surfing Mr Tom’s board! Swimming alligator!”.

My son has speech issues and he has not stopped, every single day, saying he went “surfing Mr Tom’s board! Swimming alligator!”.

I honestly feel that day changed my life. Besides his birth, this was one of my absolute favorite days. We will be back and I would love to volunteer as well. Watching everyone that day, not just Elliot. It was emotional and spiritual and so beautiful. What you do for us, there are not enough words to describe it.

Elliot wears his t-shirt to bed, to school, he points to his pictures and tells strangers. We will be in Aldi’s on line and he’ll say “surfing Mr Tom’s board! ” To the stranger behind us.

Thank you so much for all you do for us and everyone who gets to share in this. I can’t wait for next year and I know Elliot can’t either.

So proud and honored to now be a part of the AWOW family.

-Gabrielle