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2020 Top-Rated Nonprofit

A Walk on Water Inc

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Health, Health Care, Human Services, Mental Health, Mental Health & Crisis Intervention, Sports, Swimming & Other Water Recreation

Mission: A WALK ON WATER is a family of watermen sharing the therapeutic powers of the ocean with those in need. AWOW's primary goal is providing relief to families of children with special needs through “surf therapy” (water therapy through guided surf instruction). Surfing is used as a tool to build self-confidence and provides therapy via repetitive wave motion. Children experience the true “stoke” of surfing and a sense of accomplishment as family and friends cheer them on from the beach. Brothers, sisters (and even parents!) participate together, helping to solidify a sometimes strained bond between siblings. AWOW surf events focus on both the athletes and their families, who are treated to a well-deserved day of relaxation, healthy meals and support.

Results: Since launching in August of 2012, AWOW has served over 1,000 families and provided surf therapy to over 2,000 children and adults with special needs. Our goal is to increase the number of children served by at least 25% every year. We would like to reach those most in need, who have never had the chance to experience the joy of ocean therapy.

Target demographics: families of children with special needs and/or disability

Direct beneficiaries per year: over 1,000 children

Geographic areas served: United States

Programs: surf therapy through guided surf instruction

Community Stories

100 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Have you ever shared tears of joy with a complete stranger? Well, If you've been to "A Walk On Water" event you have. A lot of charities are about fancy dinners and advertising their celebrity support. "A Walk On Water" is about rolling up your sleeves and getting right into the ocean. To attend an event is the real way to understand and see what AWOW is about. It's not till you witness a special needs child take the first wave of their life and see tears of joy running down their parents face that you truly get it. To have a parent look at you and say; "Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would see my child surf!" will open your heart in ways you never thought possible. It opened mine! Anything is possible when you connect the ocean, a board, willingness, a selfless community - AWOW and a whole lotta love.

Comments ( 1 )

AWOW Absolutely beautiful and so perfectly stated. Thank you so much for sharing these words!

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

A Walk On Water is an incredible non profit organization! My son has Down Syndrome, Autism, and a long list of other medical diagnosis'. When we found out about AWOW I was so excited to have the opportunity to get my son in the water! However I was not aware of how this incredible organization would have such an impact on my kiddo! I truly believe in surf therapy, and am so thankful for everything AWOW has done for my son! THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!

2 jenniferpooley

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am very honored to volunteer with A Walk on Water​,​ a nonprofit devoted to creating magical days at the waves for the families of children with special needs through the transformative power of surf therapy. Every member of AWOW's team is heart driven and dedicated to creating joy in the lives of these families both by the ocean and beyond the beach. I could not recommend them more highly​.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Bringing the beauty of the Ocean to special needs children through surfing. After growing up with a special needs brother, it is a very sad realization, that they do not have many positive social interactions outside of their family. AWOW lets them see that an entire community is there for them!

3 Agatha W.

Client Served

Rating: 5

This was something I wrote about our first experience with A Walk On Water (AWOW).

"I knew it would be near impossible to get a wetsuit on him. He was kicking, hitting and screaming the whole time. But with help from the very patient and strong staff of ladies at awalkonwater and we got it on him. Then came the struggle to keep it on him. He wrestled with me as I tried to keep him from ripping the wetsuit off. Then Sean with AWOW, walked up and said I'm just going to take him now. I watched as this awesome man walked of with my son, my son who was wailing around and pulling Sean's hair. And in a blink of an eye he plopped my son on a surfboard and into the care of an expert surfer/autism child whisperer. As my tantrum child was being paddled off out to sea ,in a hail of cheer and applause from everyone around, I could see him transform. My son became calmer as they moved with the water. My child regained his composure and started to participate. There was a big smile from ear to ear when I saw my son's face again. He was standing tall and riding a wave in. As he walked onto the sand he said I want to go again. Thank you awalkonwater for this most precious memorable day. Thank you to each and everyone of you for your time, hard work, patience, endurance and big hearts."

This group provides an amazing event for our special needs children. They truly focus on the entire family having this experience to share by inviting siblings to participate. Each of their staff members connect with not only the children but their entire family. They are truly a blessing to our special needs families.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

A Walk On Water is one of the best organizations out there! They are the most caring, professional and big-hearted people. They have a natural ability to make everyone feel welcome, loved and safe. They also install a sense of community and most importantly, family.

3 Cindy197

Client Served

Rating: 5

My sons have been surfing with A Walk On Water since their beginning. They've truly become family. My oldest son Noah has Autism, ADHD and sensory issues. It's incredibly hard to get him to try new things. The first time he was invited to surf, we were positive that he would refuse to go. But then they took his hand and off he went. And he was all smiles and shrieks of joy. He loves every second of it. Our favorite part of AWOW is their family-centered approach to surf therapy. Noah and his 3 brothers all get to participate together and we get to spend the day bonding over shared experiences. It's like nothing else out there. We are forever grateful to A Walk On Water for all they do for families like ours!

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Hi all,

I had the pleasure to meet AWOW in Montauk, NY, the weekend of September 26-27.

I didn't know the organization before and honestly, when I woke up on Saturday morning, I almost didn't go. I thought it would be another volunteer job, always rewarding but nothing new. But the reality completely over passed my expectations. I had one of the most beautiful and happiest days of my life, the guys at AWOW surely know what they are doing and one couldn't but smile the whole day.

It is amazing how the ocean heals everything. Basically what AWOW do is taking the kids to surf, I think a really smart way to provide therapy to kids with special needs. But what makes AWOW especial and different than other organizations is they include the whole family in these therapy days, not only the kids. I find that organizations focus on the kids but usually forget about their families, also in need for a relaxing and happy day.

I will never forget AWOW. They truly touched the Montauk community heart, so it is that some people are trying to open a new AWOW headquarters here. I hope I'll meet the AWOW team again someday, what these guys do is pure love and we all should learn from them.

Come back to Montauk please!
Y

Comments ( 1 )

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AWOW 10/26/2015

Thank you so much for your beautiful words! The volunteer experience at an AWOW event is so very important to us. Without people like you, none of this would be possible. We want the very best and expect a lot out of our volunteers, but we think in the end it is all worth it. See you again soon!

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

The AWOW team travels across miles and musters entire communities to volunteer to give special needs kids (including my 13-year-old son) the experience of a lifetime through surf therapy. The work and support these angels in wet suits provide is nothing short of stunning. They bring confidence and joy to countless kids and their families.

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AWOW 10/26/2015

Thank you so much for these kind words; we truly appreciate it!

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

We tried out AWOW this year for the first time and it was an amazing experience. We have done other Surfing Events with other organizations and we would have to say that this organization has so far been the best that we have done.

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AWOW 10/26/2015

That means so much to us! We try to make AWOW surf therapy events something that you will never forget. Thank you!

3 Nicole137

Volunteer

Rating: 5

AWOW is an amazing organization that has a very passionate group behind it. I have had the chance as a volunteer to see the authentic exchange of great people and nature coming together to do something very powerful.

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AWOW 10/26/2015

Thank you so much for sharing; we appreciate it!

3 Lisa501

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son is developmentally delayed and A Walk On Water provides one of the most amazing experiences he has ever had!!! My family spent a wonderful day at the beach enjoying the sun, sand, and surf…YES SURF! A Walk On Water provides surf therapy to children with special needs - these awesome surfers actually tandem surf with the kids! Everything you could possibly need is provided; wetsuits, life jackets, lunch, and a sensory experience bar-none for your child. Thank you, A Walk On Water, for giving my family the opportunity and support to have a memorable and "super stoked" day at the beach!

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AWOW 10/26/2015

Woohoo! You nailed the entire experience. Thank you so much for sharing your story and your kind words. We hope to see you again at another event soon.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had the pleasure and privilege to work with AWOW this September in their first, ever Montauk event. These guys are pros, and their hearts are in the right place. The families who came and surfed with them were changed in the best of ways forever. As were all those of us who came out to lend a hand or just cheer from the beach. I can't wait for them to come back. I hope I can help out once again.
-Alice

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AWOW 10/26/2015

Thank you so much for the kind words, Alice! And thank you for your servant's heart.

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

The surf instructors were fabulous they help my children in and out of the water with ease. My boys had so much fun! A great experience! Serving so healing for children with special needs, and the parents that get to enjoy the water have an experience of a lifetime.

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AWOW 10/26/2015

Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful experience with us!

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son has autism and has some sensory issues. AWOW has provided AMAZING surf therapy for my son. He just lights up and wants more and more surfing despite blue lips and shivering. My daughter describes the experience as "flying." My children are now hooked on the ocean, and what a great side effect. These men and women are positive, calming and do AMAZING work for kids with special needs. I can not thank AWOW enough for the unforgettable memories they have created for my family. My children and I are also recent domestic violence survivors, so being around positive encouraging men, is very healthy for my kiddos. I would recommend this organization to anyone, THANK YOU AWOW.

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AWOW 10/26/2015

Thank you so much for sharing your family's moving experience. It gives us great joy to know that you find solace and happiness at AWOW surf therapy events. Take care and be well.

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

This is a great non profit organization. My son suffers from Autism and seeing his smile whenever hes on the board is something that ive never seen before. The guys are great and talks to them like they matter. Aside from all the bulling in school im just glad there is an organization out there that can include kids like my son.

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AWOW 10/26/2015

Thank you so much for the wonderful review! We truly appreciate it!

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AWOW 10/26/2015

Thank you so much for the wonderful review! We truly appreciate it!

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

We can not put into words how great our experience was that day with the AWOW family. Our autistic son loves the ocean and the waves. For six consecutive years, we have traveled with him and his older (typical) brother to Hawaii for that purpose. We have tried to introduce the surfing experience to him without success. In one day, AWOW turned that impossible task into a once in a life time experience for him. For our older son, being around other families and other siblings made it beyond memorable. The day was not just for our autistic son, it was for all of us as a family. We were welcomed with open smiles and open hearts. We were free to be a special need family and had fun without any worries. We felt like we were showered with love and kindness all day. We did not have to do anything, bring anything, pay anything. We just showed up. On top of that, we had pictures!!! On our drive home, our oldest son said "This trip was better than Hawaii" .
We would love to experience that day again but we had to step back. We want to leave the room for other families to experience that amazing feeling. ONCE IN A LIFETIME.

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AWOW 10/26/2015

So beautiful! Thank you very much for sharing this experience. Please promise us that you will attend an event again. Our number one goal is to create more and more AWOW surf therapy events so that even more families can experience the joy of surf therapy. Thank you!

3 Beth154

Client Served

Rating: 5

BEST.......DAY......EVER!!!!!! The people were all so amazing. We have 4 children, 2 with special needs and one of the things I love best is that they treat the whole family not just the ones with special needs. So many organizations focus on just the family members with special needs. I love that this is an event the whole family can participate in and enjoy, because the condition of the special needs individual effects the family as a whole. They interacted with all of us, made sure we were comfortable, reassured mom and dad that everything was okay. They allowed us to relax and just enjoy the day no matter what condition based troubles may occur. We have participated in similar events through other organizations and it seemed like when it was not "our turn", there wasn't much interaction. With A Walk on Water there was always someone checking in on us, playing with the kids, having a conversation, just smiling and saying hello. They really did so much more than i ever expected they would.

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AWOW 10/26/2015

This means the world to us; thank you so much for sharing! We place such a huge emphasis on the entire family's experience, and this is exactly why! It warms our hearts to know that what we work so hard on truly does matter and make a difference to the families we serve. Thank you!

3 Ryan66

Volunteer

Rating: 5

It was amazing to help out with such a great cause.

Comments ( 1 )

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AWOW 10/26/2015

Thank you for your help!

2

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

No non profit has ever been so great to work with. AWOW is truly amazing in everyday possible.

Comments ( 1 )

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AWOW 10/26/2015

Thank you so very much!

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I learned about A Walk On Water from a friend, who has volunteered with them for some time. The enthusiasm and emotion he showed when discussing their events made me want to get involved. I drove 2 hours to volunteer at a recent event and had absolutely no regrets for having gone so far. As a volunteer, I had a wonderful day, helping families with special needs children to enjoy a day at the beach. As a "land" volunteer, I greeted families, helped them get their gear to the beach, manned the parking area, and helped with tear-down at the end of the day. Everyone with whom I came into contact was wonderful, whether a participant, volunteer, or AWOW staff! It was instantly obvious to me that the AWOW staff are very serious about providing a professionally run, but inviting and open, environment. As a volunteer, while it was clear I was expected to take my assigned duties seriously, I was welcomed into the fold with good humor, kindness, and positivity. The families I encountered throughout the day continuously showed amazement at how efficiently and totally their needs were being met. They were unaccustomed to having a family day out with so little stress or concern. The kids who were taken out surfing were treated to such a unique experience and showed such excitement and joy! It was a delight to hear both AWOW personnel and the gathered families cheering the kids on as they rode the waves. I'll soon be volunteering at another AWOW event and am looking forward to continuing to volunteer in future seasons. Taking special needs kids and their siblings surfing sounds like a deceptively simple concept. What AWOW does is anything but simple. The organization that takes place behind the scenes requires a lot of work, and the smoothness with which the events take place is the result of many people coming together and working very hard to create an atmosphere that disguises all that work by offering a carefree, supportive day for the participants. I'm proud to help make that happen.

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AWOW 10/26/2015

Thank you so much for sharing your story! AWOW volunteers are the core of the A Walk On Water family, and we expect the best out of them. We are rewarded at every event with how hard every volunteer works, and the joy they bring to the families participating. Thank you for your continued support; we truly appreciate you spending your time with us!

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AWOW 10/26/2015

Thank you so much for sharing your story! AWOW volunteers are the core of the A Walk On Water family, and we expect the best out of them. We are rewarded at every event with how hard every volunteer works, and the joy they bring to the families participating. Thank you for your continued support; we truly appreciate you spending your time with us!

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My Name is Martha B Ruiz and I am a Volunteer for A Walk on Water. I love what they do. Working with Kids is a very Special cause for me because my little cousin suffers from anxiety and Surfing for him as been a huge help. I love the water my self and I also help that it helps me when I am going through tough times. What they do is great cause I feel they give Kids hope that they can accomplish anything no matter what they are going through. I love giving back and I could not think of a better ordination to work with in giving back .

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AWOW 10/26/2015

Thank you so much for the beautiful words, Martha. And thank you for volunteering your time with AWOW!

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have a special needs daughter that lacks coordination. She is strong but not a strong swimmer and thus has a fear of being far out on the ocean. The amazing staff of AWOW had her out surfing for 4 hours!!! She absolutely loved it. She just wanted more. It was a stunning experience for a parent to watch. When every obstacle takes sometimes years to overcome. This one was done in a day. I tear up just thinking about it. The staff had everything very well planned out. Everyone's needs were seen to in a wonderful unexpectedly generous way. The volunteers were gracious, kind, thoughtful and professional. I will donate to them too.

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AWOW 10/26/2015

This makes us so happy to read! Thank you very much for sharing your story. We hope your daughter has a new-found love of the ocean and its therapeutic benefits.

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

The short version: take a look at the photos on their website or Facebook page, and look for a little blonde girl with pigtails and a pink life jacket. That's our daughter, and the look on her face in every one of those pictures (grinning from ear to ear!) really says it all.

For those of you who like words, though: our daughter is eight years old, has Down Syndrome, and has surfed at three AWOW events to-date. She loves water, the beach, and really loves surfing.

The volunteers are, without exception, amazing. Everybody is so nice, both to my wife and I , and especially our daughter. They are very well organized, with an obvious emphasis on safety. They make it a combination of a fun day for the kids, while almost providing a form of respite to the parents - there's nothing to worry about, nothing to do except enjoy the day.

Really, truly, exceeds our expectations every time. So pleased to have found this outstanding group of people!

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AWOW 10/26/2015

Thank you so much for these wonderful sentiments! You are correct in that the primary focus of every AWOW event (outside of FUN!) is safety. We take great pride in enabling families to fully relax and enjoy a day at the beach while we take their children out for an amazing day of surf therapy!

3

Donor

Rating: 5

There are so few organizations that bring such joy to so many people! It's not just the kids who benefit, but the whole family leaves the beach with a new appreciation of what surfing can do for your spirit.

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AWOW 10/26/2015

Thank you so much for sharing your kind review! At AWOW, we truly believe in creating a memorable experience for the entire family.

3 Jessica249

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

My son is a non-verbal 3 year old little boy. It is very hard to take him fun places do to sensory issues and outburst. We were extremely hesitant about bringing him to 'A Walk On Water' 's event worried that he would have meltdowns and not participate. We chose to go anyways which started off as him trying to strip naked and run into the water. After 15 minutes of dealing with this we went and signed up to get him on a board. Our first try (with a volunteer who was not from the organization) was a fail. He was scared and not cooperating. We were ready to leave when a member of LICOP (a local special needs organization) pushed and pushed for us to try again with "the best surfer there was". We cooperated (even though we were extremely nervous) and let him go out. He was out of our sight, so far out! And for a good 15 minutes. The anticipation of wondering how he was doing was at an all time high. We aren't used to handing our son off to a stranger. Suddenly, we saw him coming in. We weren't sure if it was him but as he got closer we realized it was! Our son was not only on the board, but he was standing in a true surfers stance. He was flapping his hands like crazy (he does this when he's excited). I can tell you as a mother of an autistic child, this was hands down the most exciting moment for us and our son we have ever had. We cried and laughed and clapped all at the same time. It was our boys time to shine!!! I am so thankful for this organization and the effort they make to not only get us there but to get our kids out on a successful ride. It was truly life changing and we will be back every time they come!

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AWOW 10/26/2015

So beautiful! This is what it is all about. Thank you for your bravery in trusting us with your son. We realize that it is very difficult to try new things, especially with a child with special needs. We at AWOW take great pride in building a trust level that allows families to believe in the process. The payoff, as you can see, is well worth it! Thank you so much for sharing your story. See you again soon!

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

Love them people !
They make a dream come true !!
BEST DAY EVER !!!

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AWOW 10/26/2015

Awesome! Thank you!

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

They are the most generous group of people ever with excellent leadership and management.

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AWOW 10/26/2015

Thank you so very much!

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had the pleasure of working with AWOW at their recent event in Montauk. We are a very close knit town and when I heard that one of my good friends Pat was helping to organize their coming, I immediately felt compelled to be a part of it all. It is hard to put words to the experience I had volunteering with AWOW. It was absolutely incredible and each time I reflect on the two days surrounded by their team, I feel so much joy. Their dedication, enthusiasm and love for what they were doing was inspiring.

It hit close to my heart as I watched my friends son head out on a surfboard with Steven. As scared as he was going out, he came back with a huge smile on his face. He was so proud of himself. I am so proud of him.

Another woman got in the water with much hesitation. We were all rooting for her and holding her hands. Over and over she chanted "I DID IT, I DID IT." Her pride and excitement was everything.

My experience was truly life changing. I am so happy to have met each and every person on the AWOW team and I look forward to what I can be a part of in the future. You will always have the support and love of your Montauk family.

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AWOW 10/26/2015

Thank you for sharing this beautiful story with us! We believe strongly in forging meaningful relationships with the people of the areas we serve. It makes us proud to know that your small community accepted us in with open arms. We love hearing about these amazing experiences!

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son is 9 and is diagnosed with Autism. He was elated to be able to surf with AWOW. He cannot wait to do it again! This is an amazing experience.

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AWOW 10/26/2015

We are so glad to hear of his wonderful experience! Thank you for sharing your story.

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

Every moment of getting to know this charity has been incredible. We were very fortunate to get to know the crew at their Montauk, NY event, and their kindness, generosity, and patience far exceeded any of our expectations. They patiently and lovingly took our autistic son out on the water to experience something he never had before and he loved it. Even when he had a meltdown on the 2nd day, every person was extremely kind, divinely patient, and constantly offering to help in any way possible. They made sure every member of our family was looked after and cared for. It was a deeply beautiful and exceptionally moving weekend we will never forget. We love you all.

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AWOW 10/26/2015

Thank you so much for sharing your moving story! It means so much to us to hear that all of the AWOW family worked hard to make your experience one you would never forget. We hope to see you again in New York soon!

3 Vanessa30

Volunteer

Rating: 5

A walk on water is a group of amazing people doing amazing work.

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AWOW 10/26/2015

Thank you so much for the kind words!

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

AWOW not only brings the smiles to the children, their families, but to the volunteers as well. Although the day is tiring, the feelings that you leave with are indescribable. From the surf instructors to the water safety people, everyone bands together to form an unstoppable team with a mission to spread love and smiles. AWOW will always hold my heart and I can't wait to volunteer with them this summer!

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AWOW 10/26/2015

Thank you so much for the kind review! We appreciate your desire to serve and look forward to you volunteering with us again soon.