North Carolina’s Indo Jax Surf Charities Helps Kids With Batten Disease, Other Special Needs

A small North Carolina nonprofit organization, Indo Jax Surf Charities, has recently gained attention for its set of free programs to help children with Batten disease and other special needs build self-esteem.

Since launching these programs, Indo Jax has been featured in several media platforms, including American Way Magazine and TEDx Talks. Its founder is Jack Viorel, who started the group when he was a first-grade teacher at Saint Mary’s Elementary School in Wilmington, N.C.

“The school provided a program for kids born with AIDS,” Viorel said in a press release. “I thought about taking them surfing, believing this would be good for their self-esteem and physical issues. The program coordinator talked me into running three camps that summer.”

Beore the surf camp, many of these AIDS-stricken children had stopped taking their medication, knowing that they were dying, said Viorel.

“By the end of the summer, I knew we were on to something big,” he said. “The children started to open up, their skin issues improved, many of them went back on their medication, they wanted to surf again and be healthy enough to do it, and started talking about future plans.”

Sensing this could be a great success, Viorel retired from his 20-year teaching career and spent the next decade honing and expanding his charity for children with special needs. Today, Indo Jax Surf Charities uses the ocean as a classroom and surfing as a learning tool.

“We believe the ocean has unique healing properties with an ever-changing, unpredictable environment,” Viorel said. “Getting into the ocean and learning to surf, especially special-needs children, is a life-long lesson about stepping out of your comfort zone into unpredictability, and removing limitations. Everything in life has a bit of fear. We teach the kids that it’s okay to be afraid.”

Indo Jax now works in North Carolina, California, Nicaragua and India and different surf camps have specially designed programs for children with autism, visual impairment, certain cancers and neuromuscular diseases, among others.

“Our programs build higher self-confidence and teach a system children can apply to any situation or hurdle in the future,” he added. “They leave with a formula to be more successful, conquer more challenges, and the ability to deal with fear.”

The plan for 2017 is to assist about 1,000 children free of charge, using financial help from individuals as well as corporate donors and sponsors.

“We take on the responsibility of raising the money,” Viorel explained. “Most families with medically fragile, special needs or at-risk children are struggling to make ends meet.”

“I encourage anybody thinking about it to go for it,” said Eric Stanley, the father of 11-year old Jaylen, who is battling juvenile Batten disease. “Jack and his team are great. They’re very patient and know how to work with kids. A parent does not have to worry – they are one-on-one with the children, working with them and watching all the time.”

Batten disease may cause progressive visual impairment, seizures, muscle spasms, difficult sleep, speech and language decline and the general deterioration of fine and gross motor skills, which result in the overall loss of mobility. Ultimately, the child may become totally dependent on families.

Because there’s no cure for Batten disease yet, specialist symptom management and holistic therapy is essential to maintaining a good quality of life. Activities like surfing, which let kids interact with the environment, be in contact with water and have fun, may help increase strength and physical fitness as well as provide much-needed time for social interaction.

Indo Jax will also be the subject of a one-hour TV special, “The Hero Effect,” to air on the Oprah Winfrey Network. A premiere showing will take place Aug. 10 in Wrightsville Beach at Blockade Runner Beach Resort, one of the project’s main sponsors.

By Carolina Henriques

Press Release: Café Momentum, an Episode of United Way’s Docu-Series “The Hero Effect” is Available for Public Streaming Commercial-Free

WINSTON-SALEM, NC – Café Momentum, the second installment of “The Hero Effect,” a 10-episode United Way docu–series is now available to the public for streaming commercial-free and in extended cut on HeroEffect.com.

“The Hero Effect” brings to life the stories of ordinary individuals who are making extraordinary differences in their communities.  The original series brings audiences real-life stories that build on United Way’s credo to fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community.

Café Momentum, features the story of a United Way-supported restaurant and culinary training facility in Dallas that provides a positive environment for teens recently released from juvenile detention and originally aired Dec. 10 on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

The extended cut episode includes a visit to Bonton Farms, an agricultural intervention to restore lives, create jobs and ignite hope in the most forgotten and neglected neighborhoods for the most marginalized and vulnerable people. Created through GroundFloor, a social incubator housed by United Way of Metro Dallas, Café Momentum and Bonton Farms are making a big difference in the Dallas community.

Presented by United Way, produced by Dolphin Entertainment and hosted by Donald Driver, a former Wide Receiver for the Green Bay Packers and Emily Wilson, a philanthropist and actress, each episode of The Hero Effect concludes with a call to action, encouraging viewers to visit www.HeroEffect.com and connect with their local United Way or other community-based organizations to create positive change.

 

Press Release: United Way of Forsyth County Supported Programs Provide Critical Help to At-Risk Youth

WINSTON-SALEM, NC – Approximately 265 Forsyth County troubled teens this year are getting a second chance to graduate high school after committing a juvenile offense, thanks to United Way of Forsyth County (UWFC) supported programs similar to a Dallas United Way program that will be featured on an Oprah Winfrey Network Docu-Series episode of “The Hero Effect,” airing on Dec. 10 at 10:30 a.m.
The UWFC supported “Work & Earn It “program is for teens who have committed offenses that could lead to incarceration.  At-risk teens are referred to the program by juvenile court counselors in order to pay restitution or perform community service.  The target population is youth ages 9 and 17 who are on probation or have been diverted from Juvenile Court. Local non-profits and governmental agencies collaborate by providing locations for the participants to perform their community service.  The youth not only compensate their victims, but also learn valuable vocational skills. 
 
The UWFC supported “Teen Court” program gives juvenile offenders the opportunity to perform community service and give back to their community. The program’s target population is youth between the ages nine and 15 who are first-time offenders or those who have been diverted from Juvenile Court.  The youth are required to serve on teen court, which also provides life skills lessons designed to help the teens make better choices and become accountable for their actions. Local attorneys and judges serve as judges and all proceedings are held in the Hall of Justice where actual court cases are heard.
 
A new inspirational docu-series, The Hero Effect, to air on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) on Dec. 10 at 10:30 a.m., features an episode highlighting a United Way-supported restaurant and culinary training facility in Dallas that provides a positive environment for teens recently released from juvenile detention.
“United Way of Forsyth County is dedicated to supporting at-risk youth throughout the County,” said Cindy Smith Gordineer, UWFC president and CEO. “By shining a spotlight on “Café Momentum,” The Hero Effect is underscoring the important work that is needed to help young people across our country gain the education, skills and confidence they need to succeed as adults.”
The Hero Effect brings to life the stories of ordinary individuals who are making extraordinary differences in their communities.  The ten-episode original series brings audiences real-life stories that build on United Way’s credo to fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community
 
Presented by United Way, produced by Dolphin Entertainment and hosted by Donald Driver, a former Wide Receiver for the Green Bay Packers and Emily Wilson, a philanthropist and actress, each episode of The Hero Effect concludes with a call to action, encouraging viewers to visit www.HeroEffect.com and connect with their local United Way or other community-based organizations to create positive change.
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Press Release: “Hero Effect” Docu-Series on OWN Network Highlights United Way Initiatives

Winston Salem, NC- November 4, 2016 – A new inspirational docu-series, The Hero Effect is premiering on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) with an inaugural episode highlighting United Way’s work supporting military veterans. In anticipation of the episode, United Way of Forsyth County today announced it has helped more than 200 veterans in: accessing workforce training, obtaining meaningful employment, finding long-term housing, and achieving financial stability.

Presented by United Way and produced by Dolphin Entertainment, The Hero Effect is an uplifting docu-series that brings to life the stories of ordinary individuals who are making extraordinary differences in their communities. The ten-episode original series brings audiences real-life stories that build on United Way’s credo to fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community.

The first episode of The Hero Effect kicks-off on Saturday, November 12 at 10 am EST, and features Mission United™ – a community network connecting veterans with access to housing, employment and legal services, allowing them to successfully integrate into civilian life. The episode spotlights Mission United founder Stephen Moss, a former Army Company Commander in the Vietnam War who was inspired to take action after his daughter returned from deployment with injuries.

Hosted by Donald Driver, a former Wide Receiver for the Green Bay Packers and Emily Wilson, a philanthropist and actress, each episode concludes with a call to action, encouraging viewers to visit www.HeroEffect.com and connect with their local United Way or other community-based organizations to create positive change.

“United Way Forsyth County in partnership with The Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries, is committed to supporting veterans who are grappling with housing needs, by providing homeless prevention and rapid re-housing services” said President and CEO, Cindy Gordineer ” By sharing Stephen Moss’s story, The Hero Effect is shining the spotlight on the struggles veterans and their families face around the country and in our community.”

United Way of Forsyth County believes quality of life relies on education, financial stability, health, and basic needs. All four are critical and interdependent to the collective success of our community. United Way of Forsyth County creates positive change in the community by aligning resources and strategic partners to achieve measurable, lasting results. We invest in improving student success and the high school graduation rate, increasing financial stability among lower-income individuals and families, broadening access to health care and providing critical assistance to those facing immediate crisis. Learn more about our work and rediscover the why behind the way at www.forsythunitedway.org.

About Dolphin Entertainment

Founded in 1996, Dolphin is a world-class independent financier, distributor and producer of premium film, television and digital programming. Dolphin has produced and delivered original content to more than 300 million homes in 125 countries. Dolphin Entertainment is an Emmy-nominated leader in family, tween, teen and young-adult television programming. Dolphin Entertainment is known for creating hit properties such as Emmy-nominated Zoey 101 (Nickelodeon’s highest-rated series), Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, and What’s Up Warthogs (Family Channel’s Canadian Screen Award nominated). The Dolphin Entertainment-produced family sitcom Raising Expectations, starring Molly Ringwald and Jason Priestley, premiered on Mother’s Day 2016, on Family Channel Canada.

About OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network

OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network is the first and only network named for, and inspired by, a single iconic leader. Oprah Winfrey’s heart and creative instincts inform the brand – and the magnetism of the channel. Winfrey provides leadership in programming and attracts superstar talent to join her in primetime, building a global community of like-minded viewers and leading that community to connect on social media and beyond. OWN is a singular destination on cable. Depth with edge. Heart. Star power. Connection. And endless possibilities. OWN is a joint venture between Harpo, Inc. and Discovery Communications. The network debuted on January 1, 2011. The venture also includes the award-winning digital platform Oprah.com. For more information, please visit www.oprah.com/own and https://press.discovery.com/us/own/.