Antao said, "Every time I went surfing everything started to slow down for me and that feeling of self-confidence."
Christopher Antao, was struggling with ADHD, anxiety, and depression, and the only thing that made him happy and gave him self-confidence was surfing. That's what led him to start Gnome Surf in 2015, a non-profit organization in Rhode Island. Antao said, "We are a Surf Therapy Organization focused on creating a culture shift towards Inclusion, Acceptance, Diversity, and Equality for kids of all abilities."
They have helped more than 3000 athletes and their families. He said, "over 95% of our athletes either have autism, down syndrome, ADHD, depression, or anxiety," as reported by PBS.
SURF THERAPY: On a Rhode Island beach—one man & a group of kind-hearted volunteer surfers have provided surf therapy to 3,000+ kids with disabilities through non-profit @GnomeSurf@GoodNewsMVT went to the shore to meet the inspiring instructors & athletes pic.twitter.com/QmTVB5Rn1r— GoodNewsCorrespondent (@GoodNewsCorres1) December 7, 2022
Antao believes that his own experience with surfing made him believe that it will be therapeutic for many other kids. Antao said, "Every time I went surfing everything started to slow down for me and that feeling of self-confidence after each session really probed in me to really share this with many kids that's why I created Gnome Surf to make sure that every child was able to have a chance at this type of healing therapy so to say.
According to him, Surf Therapy "focuses both on physical and mental health" of their athletes. "We are giving our athletes a place that they can call home a place where they're accepted. Normally our athletes can't partake in your prototypical basketball, baseball, or soccer, and here using the vehicle of surfing we are giving them that freedom that they directly need and it's a whole affair so to say."
Moreover, the impact of the therapy is not limited to the athlete but also their families. "The whole family really feels the positive effect of surfing with us here at home."
Through the initiative, Antao thinks he is able to achieve what he aimed for. He said, "The families are going home and truly having that sense of belonging and that child has a sense of self-confidence." "It's completely changing their whole life because that spills into every aspect of their entire life and that's our greatest impact is giving our families a place to belong, a place where they can build lifelong friendships and a place where they can find that support network for their everyday struggles and that's the greatest gift that I'll ever need and that's what gives me my drive to keep going," he said.
Antao also started a fundraiser on GoFundMe to support Gnome Surf last month. He wrote on the platform, "Through our research, we found that over 98% of our Athletes at Gnome Surf are feeling Happier and over 93% are feeling more self-confident. Today, we ask you to Join our Family, by believing in our Athletes and donating to our Mission of Inclusion, Diversity, Equality, and Acceptance for all kids of all abilities. Today, on GivingTuesday, your donation will have 2x the IMPACT."
In just one day, Antao was able to raise more than $33,000. He thanked everyone who donated to the cause. "Thank you to all our amazing contributors to the Single Biggest Day of Giving ever at Gnome Surf. It's because of you and our Match Partners, Matouk that we will be able to begin planning new services, programs, and projects in 2023 that will bring tons of joy to the Communities we serve."