KAPOLEI, Hawaii (NNS) -- Sailors at Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 37 volunteered their time at White Plains Beach near Kapolei, Hawaii, July 3 as part of Access Surf's "Day at the Beach" program.
Command Master Chief Jim Lyle, the command master chief of HSL 37, Logistics Specialist 3rd Class William Kueffoua and Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Jason Flicstein spent the day helping disabled Hawaii residents enjoy the Hawaiian waters in a safe and secure environment.
The volunteers arrived early and began setting up equipment.
"Access Surf is ecstatic about the services that the Navy provides, in particular for setup and teardown. CEO Mark Marble used to call up a whole bunch of individuals to set up, and we've removed that burden from him totally," said Lyle.
When the volunteers finished setting up, they donned board shorts and rash guards and escorted people in and out of the water using adaptive wheel chairs, surf boards, life jackets and other special equipment.
"They just like being in the water. Some of them have disabilities, so they can't go out by themselves. We just want to show them how fun surfing is," said Lyle.
Flicstein took a surf board out and assisted with water safety. As the surf instructors and the participants were paddling out and riding the waves back to the shore, his job was to make sure everybody was safe.
"I'll paddle out on the rescue boards, and I'll just sit out there and make sure that if anybody falls off, any of the surfers, I'll put them back on their board with the surf instructor behind them and just make sure everything is safe," said Flicstein.
Lyle first heard about Access Surf approximately two years ago from his wife and has been personally involved for more than a year. Lyle has since then inspired others in his command to volunteer their time to the cause.
"They're afforded a great opportunity here to give back to local ohana (family in Hawaiian)," said Lyle. "It's an excellent opportunity, and they'll have a story to tell working here with these participants."
Mark Marble, CEO of Access Surf, expressed gratitude for Lyle's support and all the contributions the volunteers from HSL 37 bring to the organization.
"He saw the need for us to set up all the equipment early, to transport all the equipment and then to set it up, tear it down, brush off everything," said Marble. "It's physical work and to do that with a handful of volunteers that are sometimes here and sometimes not, it was very hard for the first few years, so when we met Jim and his team, it's been a godsend."
Marble explained how the impact Access Surf has on the local community can be seen on the faces of its participants.
"They are leaving with the biggest smiles on their faces and a changed heart," said Marble.
Kueffoua, a regular volunteer, described one such experience.
"I remember two months ago when I helped a lady with disabilities. She doesn't walk. What she told me was she really liked the program; she liked the way we helped her swim. Actually, she never swam in her life.
Now she can swim like many others," said Kueffoua.
Lyle said the volunteer opportunities don't interfere with the squadron's maintenance schedules.
"This conveniently is on a Saturday. They're spending a day out at the beach, it's sunny, you're getting your tan, meeting people; it seemed like a win-win situation coming out here," said Lyle.
He also said that the volunteers get just as much out of the experience as its participants.
"Most of them that are here, like today, are repeat [volunteers]. In the morning they come out and surf beforehand, they meet people, they get to paddle out and they get credit for volunteer hours, and it seems like a no-brainer for them," explained Lyle.
"It means a lot to me. Actually, a lot of my own ideology is that life is all about helping others. I feel happy; I feel my value when I help," said Kueffoua. "I heard about it from Command Master Chief Jim Lyle; he's the one who got me into the program, and I actually like it more than he does."
For Flicstein, it's a chance to serve his community while getting to do something he loves.
"I just like being able to help people, and I feel it's very easy for me to help these people," said Flicstein. "I love surfing, so I figured this would be perfect for me."
Access Surf is a non-profit organization that provides safe beach access and assistance free of charge to anyone with physical and mental disabilities on the island of Oahu.
"Day at the Beach" is held on the first Saturday of every month at White Plains Beach and is open to anyone with a physical or mental disability free of charge.
In addition to a "Day at the Beach" Access Surf also provides beach accessibility for other events such as surf competitions.
"The non-profit organizations count on volunteers to make it happen, and without volunteers, the non-profit organizations cannot properly function," said Kueffoua. "A non-profit organization like Access Surf never has enough volunteers."
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