Posted: Tuesday, Jun 13th, 2017

By Visit Ventura

Ventura is home to unforgettable beach days for kids with special needs

by Shannon McDermott

Hi, my name is Shannon McDermott and I have been a volunteer for the Best Day Foundation for about 5 years. The Best Day Foundation is a non-profit organization giving kids with special needs a day at the beach. We take them surfing, body boarding, kayaking, outrigger canoeing, and stand up paddling. We also build a sand obstacle course for the kids to run and crawl around in. When I first heard about this organization I got really excited because it involved two things I love: working with kids and being in the ocean. My whole family volunteered and we loved it. I absolutely fell in love with the program. Because I have a seizure disorder, I have been in similar experiences where I have been rejected and bullied. Just the way that I got to help someone, knowing first-hand what it is like to be rejected, scared of trying something new and not being able to experience life in a fun way. I love working with these kids and sharing my love for the ocean with them. Seeing smiles from ear to ear, their cheers, and nonstop thank-yous from the parents make me feel happy that I can make a difference in someone’s life.

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Not only have I been able to help others through the Best Day, but Best Day has also helped me. The Best Day has influenced me to pursue a career working with special needs kids. There was one day when I was body boarding with a six-year-old autistic boy who did not like to get his face wet. I carried him out into the surf and this big wave was coming. I put the kid on the board with me (they are specially built for two people) and we nosed dived! We both got tumbled around in the wave and I was expecting the kid to freak out even though I never lost my grip on him and he was wearing a life jacket, but he actually came up with a giant smile and yelled to his mom, “Hey, did you see that wipe out I just did?’’ and after that, of course, he wanted to do it again. That moment when the boy told me he was having so much fun I knew I was going to work with special needs kids. I also love the idea that I can share my love and enthusiasm for sports and the outdoors with such a special group of people. Currently I am working toward my degree in early childhood education and I hope to work with special needs kids in the areas of occupational or recreational therapy. I hope to help others to be included in as many activities as they want to try. I believe that all kids regardless of their ability should have the same chance as others to compete in a sport and I want to try to make that happen for as many people as I can.

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It’s really all about giving back. It was a privilege to grow up in Ventura where the community shows endless support for events and organizations like these. And now it’s my turn. Well anybody’s turn who wants to come out and join us. If you know or have a child with special needs, Ventura is already a great place to visit, but time your next getaway with a Best Day event to experience the support of the community behind this beautiful destination. It’s all 100% volunteer work, funded by donations and grants with a small administration fee charged to participants. Best Day provides wetsuits, lifejackets, helmets and adaptive equipment to ensure all kids can participate. To volunteer or participate, you simply register online by going to Best Day attracts both volunteers and participants from out of town. And many people first learn about it on their morning walk on the beach when they come across all the kids and volunteers playing together on the beach and in the water. I guarantee if you do participate, it will be your “Best Day” ever.

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