Neil Atkinson: Ocean Heroes: Westfield Local Heroes 2018
Ocean Heroes gives Neil the perfect wave to ride
The $10,000 Westfield Local Heroes grant has enabled Ocean Heroes to provide transportation of surfboards and equipment to major events with a new van. Additional life jackets have also been purchased, ensuring the safety of all participants.
A new van has allowed Ocean Heroes to host regional events in areas such as Denmark and Geraldton which were previously not possible. With greater reach, Ocean Heroes can now cater for regional autism communities.
When Neil Atkinson found out about Ocean Heroes in 2016, he knew he had found a perfect way to combine his love of the surf with his desire to help others.
Ocean Heroes is a not-for-profit charity that helps children and adults with autism spectrum disorder experience the joys of surfing in a safe and supportive environment.
He was attracted to the positive nature of the people in the group and their “really good energy” from the start. “This was something I felt I could really help with,” he says.
Neil knows people with autism spectrum disorder and understands the challenges they face.
One of those challenges can be finding ordinary outings like a day at the beach overwhelming.
But with the careful and gentle guidance of Neil and the other Ocean Hero volunteers, members get to enjoy the confidence-boosting benefits of surfing.
Neil is involved in every aspect of the charity, from instructing the children to tirelessly working on the logistics and helping to organise events.
Ocean Heroes run an event every month on a stretch of Perth beach, providing surfboards, wetsuits and life jackets for dozens of participants, who range in age from three to 30.
Neil is happy about being voted a Westfield Local Hero, but he believes it’s far more of an affirmation for the great work done by the organisation.
“I’m just a representative of all the volunteers who are all very inspiring people. The best part for me is when medical professionals see positive results from what we do and you see the joy on the faces of the kids and the parents.
“The fact that 150 places for an event can be booked out in 10 minutes means we must be doing something right.”
For further information on the Westfield Local Heroes program, click here.