After seeing how his autistic son responded to being in the ocean, Israel “Izzy” Paskowitz, a former professional surfer, started his nonprofit organization Surfers Healing.
“Isaiah loved the ocean,” says Paskowitz. “It was therapeutic and kept him calm. In the water, he was happy and smiling.”
Paskowitz and his wife started inviting other families with autistic children to join them at the beach; the ocean water helps calm autistic children who tend to struggle with sensory overload.
Twenty years later, Surfers Healing now hosts 25 free surf camps for children with autism each year. Based in Southern California, Surfers Healing offers local camps but also travels around the country and internationally — Mexico and Puerto Rico — to host camps. Each year, these camps give over 5,000 autistic children a chance to try surfing.
For transporting the children and Surfers Healing’s volunteers to the camps, Paskowitz relied on his 1998 Ford Econoline van.
“It was very rusted and old,” he says. “It was reliable but had close to 300,000 miles on it. I always worried about it breaking down.”
Through Ford’s Everyday Heroes campaign, Ford donated a 2015 Transit van to Surfers Healing.
“The campaign highlights different stories of people who embody the spirit of the Ford brand promise: people who go further for their communities, for their families, and even for their world,” says Julie Ellenberger, Ford brand manager for the Transit, Transit Connect, and E-Series. “When we found out about Izzy and what he was doing, his nonprofit seemed to fit the bill perfectly.”
Surfers Healing received the brand-new Transit from Ford at the beginning of 2015.
Paskowitz loves the added roof rack that can transport 10 tandem surfboards. These 12-foot customized surfboards allow a volunteer and a child to ride on one at the same time; it’s great for teaching the kids how to surf, says Paskowitz.
Currently, the Transit has 41,000 miles on it. During the summertime, the van transported volunteers across the country to surf camps in the south, southeast, and northeast. When hosting local camps in San Diego, the kids and their families will ride in the van.
“I can get my boys around in style and take the children and their families in it,” says Paskowitz. “My Econoline was ready to retire. We are so grateful for Ford’s generosity.”
In addition to transporting passengers, Paskowitz likes that he can store surfing and beach equipment — such as wetsuits, life vests, and canopies — in the back of the van.
“It’s also great having the compartments at the front and the Bluetooth capability,” he says.
When the Transit was delivered, Paskowitz was surprised with a customized vehicle wrap.
Galpin Auto Sports designed the woodie-inspired wrap.
“Knowing what the van was being used for and after getting a creative board for direction from Ford Motor Co. who supplied the van, incorporating a surf and wave element was essential along with the woodie design,” says Brandon Boeckmann, operations manager at Galpin Honda.
In addition to the wrap, a logo was designed on the van. It features a dolphin with the Surfers Healing name. Galpin determined the size, color, and the placement of the logo on the van, according to Boeckmann.
“With the wood panel wrap, the van looks like a turquoise woodie,” says Paskowitz. “It’s so unique and grabs people’s attention when we are on the road. Our cool surf van was generated so beautifully.”
After designing the wrap, Galpin printed the artwork on the vinyl. When installing the vinyl wrap, the vinyl is heated with a torch to make sure the material conforms to the van curves, according to Boeckmann. This process can take anywhere from four hours up to multiple days.
“My favorite part of this project was seeing how Izzy was so touched and excited to have more ability to get the kids out surfing,” says Boeckmann.