Day on the Beach: Santa Cruz, CA
Members of the Northern California Region of the Sri Sathya Sai International Organization (SSSIO) USA, have always looked forward with anticipation and joy to volunteer at 'Day on the Beach’. The annual event, sponsored by Shared Adventures, provides individuals with physical and mental disabilities and their families a wonderful opportunity to spend a fun and exciting day at the beach and participate in various water sport activities such as surfboarding, kayaking, canoeing, and scuba diving. Experienced and certified volunteers are always present to assist with the water activities. However, volunteers, such as SSSIO members, are also needed to provide and serve food for all participants, organize other fun activities and play hosts to the guests and ensure they have a rollicking good time. The Sri Sathya Sai Center of Santa Cruz, CA first got involved in preparing and serving food at the event in 1992. Over the years, the event grew substantially and more SSSIO volunteers were needed. Hence, the activity became an official Northern California regional service project.
This year, in particular, after a two-year hiatus due to COVID, there was an excitement in the air, as 100 volunteers and more than 500 participants made their way to Cowell’s Beach on July 9, 2022. They were greeted with live music by a talented local band who entertained them throughout the event. The guests, thrilled with anticipation, could hardly wait to get into the water for kayaking, accompanied by the folks from Shared Adventures. One of the SSSIO volunteers reflected, "The first thing that struck me, was the innovative contraptions to help our guests with low mobility navigate the sand on the beach and safely get into the kayak. Being a techie, it was heartwarming to see how impactful technology can be when designed with inclusivity in mind."
After the guests were back from the ocean, their hungry stomachs were not left to rumble for too long. They were treated to a wide array of food prepared by volunteers. After lunch, they participated in many fun activities that Sai volunteers had prepared such as rock painting, face painting, eco-friendly ball sorting game, and a memory game with many prizes up for grabs. The fun did not stop there. There was more music, delicious butter popcorn, and fresh watermelon slices, followed by a guided line dance which both guests and volunteers thoroughly enjoyed. The day ended with a few rounds of expressive drum circles. All in all, it was a great day to be on the beach.
A volunteer overheard a guest say: “I have lived in California all my life, but because I am in a wheelchair, I have never been able to go out to the beach. This is the first time I have been able to taste the salty waters of the sea and ride the waves, thanks to all the adapted equipment. The experience has been beautiful’. It was one of the most heartwarming reassurances that the volunteers' efforts were truly making a difference, and would inspire them to come back year after year.