Autism is in the forefront of the news these days with good reason.
Classified as a disorder of neural development, around one in 68 American children identify on the autism spectrum, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's a startling statistic made even more startling by the fact that these numbers have grown ten-fold in the past 40 years.
An estimated one out of 42 boys and one in 189 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States alone, with over ten million individuals worldwide. That means that you likely know someone affected with the disorder. Ralph Pagano knows all too well how autism can change a family forever.
The chef told Short Order that his nephew, Albert, was diagnosed with ASD when he was about two years old. Al, as he likes to be called, is now 12 and according to his doting uncle is, "an adorable boy. He's happy, he loves life and worships his mother." But, for all the joy in his family, there's a sense of what could be. "Al is happy, but autism affects the whole family.There's always that question of why this happened. It's hard not to try to blame someone or something."
With that in mind, Pagano wanted to do something, so he teamed up with Surfers Healing Foundation, a non-profit that provides free surf camps to autistic children and their families.
This Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., his restaurant, Alba and Sole on the Ocean will host a surf camp for children under 16 with autism. According to Izzy Paskowitz, a former competitive surfer and founder of Surfers Healing, the children benefit from the water time, which provides them with a sense of peace. In 2013, over 4,500 children took advantage of the roving surf camp, which travels to locations throughout the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.
In addition to the surf camp, Alba is hosting a fundraising beach party complete with beachside cookout provided by chef Pagano, who promises a "chicken sandwich and a hug" to anyone who donates at least $25 to the foundation.
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The beachside event will also feature live music by Rhythm Nation and meet-and-greets with surfing legends Skippy Slater, Raul Gongzalez, and Derrick Doerner, pioneer of tow-in surfing. There's a suggested donation of $ 25 to the foundation, but it's free to hang out on the beach. To register your child for the surf class or find out more how the ocean can play a part of helping children with autism, visit surfershealing.org.