With the Rio Paralympics just a few weeks away, a group of youngsters with the resolve to not let wider society inhibit their belief that anything is possible have displayed their determination this month in California, USA.
Ricochet is one very special four-legged talent. She has been creating unique surfing experiences that empower individuals with disabilities for over 7 years now and she has captured the world's attention on a few occasions already.
She has been known to surf with children with special needs, people with disabilities, wounded warriors, and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as an assistive aid and intuitive muse, healing hearts and souls on every wave.
Already referred to affectionately as "The Surfing Dog," this was the first time however that Ricochet surfed with a child who couldn't breathe on her own.
Bailey is the child who has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a disease that robs individuals of physical strength by affecting the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord, taking away the ability to stand, sit, crawl, walk, swallow food effectively, or even breathe. It is the number one genetic cause of death for infants.
Bailey, along with several other children with SMA broke barriers this month at a special surf session with Ricochet and research and support organization Cure SMA.
Since many of the children aren't able to hold their heads up, a bath chair was attached to the surfboard to accommodate the challenge and keep the children comfortable.
Some of the children like Bailey have a tracheostomy, a surgical procedure to create an opening through the neck into the trachea so they can breathe. Therefore, getting water into the opening could cause aspiration pneumonia. With this in mind, the water team picked the surfboard up each time a wave came into shore.
Judy Fridono is owner of Ricochet and also an avid fundraiser for a number of charity projects.
"The kids stayed in very shallow water for their surfing experience with Ricochet, and when a small wave came, they strategically lowered the board, and a volunteer held onto the back, walking it to shore. Once the board came to a stop, it was again picked up by the team. This protocol kept water from getting onto the child, while still providing the kids an enjoyable surf experience with Ricochet," Judy Fridono told Sputnik.
There are four primary types of SMA: type I, II, III, and IV. Type I is the most severe and most common. Type II individuals can typically sit up without help, but are unable to walk. Type III individuals can initially walk, but have increasingly limited mobility as they grow. Type IV is very rare and usually surfaces in adulthood. It leads to mild motor impairment.
5-year-old Riley is another of the children who enjoyed the surf experience and she has type II SMA.
She is weak and cannot hold her head up on her own. But, she was telling everyone she wanted to be first to surf with Ricochet. For a child with SMA, going from a stroller full of gear to a surfboard full of cheer gives both the child and the parents the opportunity to do something they never thought possible.
These individuals definitely have a fighting spirit, and just like Ricochet and her owner Judy Fridono, they too believe anything is possible!