Aloha Toronto is inspired by Izzy and Danielle Paskowitz and their foundation Surfers Healing.
In 2007, I had the pleasure of meeting Izzy’s parents Juliette and Dorian ‘Doc’ Paskowitz at the Toronto International Film Festival. A documentary filmed titled Surf Wise depicted their nomadic life while raising nine children in a camper van was shown at the festival.
I became fast friends with Doc and Juliette. Soon after they invited my daughter and me to their legendary Paskowitz Surf Camp. In July 2009, we made our way to San Diego, California. It was at this time where I would meet Izzy and Danielle who have been running the camp for a number of years. The camp was set up to mirror life as the Paskowitzes lived for many years. Whereas they lived in a small camper van, we lived in tents. And, like the Paskowtizes, we surfed every day, ate healthily and lived with aloha.
In the middle of the week, the campers participated in something called Surfers Healing – A Foundation for Autism. It was the first time many of us had heard about it, and it became clear as to why the Oprah Winfrey Network was on hand the entire time. They were filming the life of Izzy, Danielle and their three children. The focus of this docu-series called “The Swell Life” was their son Isaiah, a sweet young man with autism.
Isaiah spent the entire summer at camp. He found solace in the ocean and would spend hours in it. It had a profound effect on him that Izzy discovered well over a decade ago. Izzy shared that the ocean calmed Isaiah’s legendary meltdowns. The ocean was a remarkable outlet for him. Izzy and Danielle soon discovered that it had the same effect on Isaiah’s classmates and thus, Surfers Healing was born. It was during that week at surf camp with my then four-year-old daughter, that I witnessed something so emotionally overwhelming; a non-verbal child spoke his first word; “more” after experiencing Surfers Healing.
Before the end of the day, I turned to Izzy and said “we need to bring this to Toronto.” He quickly responded “tell me when you’re ready!”
Three years later, the dream of bringing Surfers Healing to Canada for the first time became a reality. Through an event I created called Aloha Toronto; we bring a taste of Hawaii and aloha to the shores of Toronto. It is an annual event celebrating surf and Hawaiian culture (Izzy’s roots) over a period of three days. For families in the autism community, traveling can be quite stressful . Thus, we will continue to bring this incredible event to Toronto annually for all to experience.
Mahalo nui loa to all who continue to support our event. See you this summer!
Founder, Aloha Toronto