It’s an image that stays in my mind almost every day: A man wearing a black windbreaker, buttoned up like a shield. Only there isn’t much wind and the air temperature is close to 85 degrees. The time is 0745. That’s am for your non military readers. His arms are positioned gently in his lap and a flat brimmed hat blocks his face from the morning sun. His body language exudes a sense of calm. Of welcoming. Of patience. Black sunglasses hide his eyes, but it’s his body where the story begins.
June 19th, 2016 started out like any other morning for me. It was a Sunday. I woke up, mindlessly swung my feet off the bed, and stood upright. I walked around the house preparing my water housing, camera, lens and wetsuit. My were thoughts focused on an event that I had been looking forward to since early spring.
My preparations lasted about 45 minutes that morning. For me, it was an easy series of tasks, for the folks participating in that day’s event, their morning began differently. You see, their morning routine is a stark contrast to mine. Some paraplegic, some quadriplegic. Ordinary tasks to you and I may take them hours – if they’re even possible – to accomplish on their own. Basic daily activities like showering, brushing teeth and making breakfast take longer, are harder and simply require more effort.
As for the man from that image stuck in my mind, well that was Jesse Billauer, the founder & driving force behind the Life Rolls On Foundation. I had never met him before that day but knew his story and the foundation that was born from it. Since suffering a life-altering spinal cord injury in 1996, Jesse has been working tirelessly to get himself and his fellow adaptive athletes surfing again. Returning some and introducing others to one thing we all cherish: surfing. However, as I quickly began to understand, Life Rolls On events are about way more than surfing. What this foundation really does for these athletes is give them hope, confidence and reignites passion. It rejuvenates their soul. Surfing gives back everything that paralysis has taken away, even if only for a moment.
Volunteering requires sacrifice. It requires giving something of your self, your time, your energy. It requires taking the initiative to help someone or something less fortunate. Be it for a day, a week, a lifetime. To be honest, there are tons of great causes out there and I encourage you to support the one that connects deeply within you. However, if you ask me, choosing to spend the day with the Life Rolls On Foundation will prove the highlight of your year. And here are 5 reasons why:
1. You get to play in the surf and hangout on the beach all day.
Volunteering is truly great no matter where you are, but who doesn’t love to get to the beach early, set up camp, and hang with friends trading stoke all day?
2. You will empower many adaptive athletes to ride their first wave.
Do you remember your first wave? Take a few seconds to stop, think and enjoy that moment all over again. Now imagine living with paralysis and how impossible that ride would be without the help of a volunteer like yourself.
3. You will meet tons of rad people.
As many of you know, volunteering is the great equalizer. It’s like Catholic school kids wearing uniforms. There is no attention on socioeconomic status. Who you are and where you come from are completely irrelevant. At these events, it’s about surfing, stories, and stoke.
4. You will learn at least one thing you didn’t know before.
The best quote I ever read was by Bill Nye: “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t”. It couldn’t be more accurate and it’s the exact reason volunteering is so powerful to our individual character. Learning is the key to success and what better place to learn than on the beach?
5. You will be inspired.
It’s no secret that volunteering, or doing anything for the benefit of others, significantly improves your own mood. Through volunteering, you are helping to positively impact the lives of others while also profoundly -mentally and physically- improving your own.
I know we are all busy in our daily lives. Our to-do list is never finished and there is never enough time. It would be easy to cruise through 2017 without checking off that volunteering goal you’ve been planning for the past three years. Only this year, lets actually do it. Trust me, the cause will be worth it and you will be better for it.
Editor’s Note: Learn more about volunteering with Life Rolls On here.