Hundreds paddle board to support HEAL | News
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Not everyone on the First Coast was at the beach working on their tan this Labor Day.
About 200 people participated in the third annual Great Ponte Vedra Paddle at Mickler's Landing in Ponte Vedra Beach.
It's a fundraiser for HEAL, Healing Every Autistic Life, which supports local children and individuals living with autism and their families.
"Stand-up paddle boarding has become the biggest water sport all over the country. So, it's a different type of event," said the founder of HEAL Leslie Weed.
The event is broken up into a couple of different events.
Participants can do a five-mile race, three-mile race, one-mile sprint or an "anything that floats" challenge.
"The one mile is not bad, but the three mile is probably the most intense workout I've had in a while," said Lisa McMahon of St. Johns County.
McMahon is a parent who has benefited from HEAL's services. She said the non-profit was a lifeline after moving to the First Coast from out of state.
She said, "They pointed us in the direction of therapists, doctors, different resources and schools."
This year, McMahon has three of her kids either participating or volunteering at the event. She joked when asked what the trick was to paddle boarding.
"There is no trick. You just stand up and go! And pray you don't fall down and embarrass yourself," she laughed.
Joe Matacia, who competed in the five mile race, offered this advice: "You got to stay steady and just stay focused and hydrated."
Matacia has been attending the fundraiser since its inception. He said he continues to support HEAL because of the work it does in the community.
"It just generates a lot of revenue of them and it's a lot of fun," he explained.
Weed noted that money that's been raised for HEAL in the past has been used to put iPads in the schools for autistic children. She was optimistic that this year's event would also be a success.
"It's a family event and a community event. It's going to be a great day," she said.