Today we’d like to introduce you to Mo Langley.
Mo, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
As “Number 5” of six children, in a family that has battled alcoholism and mental illness, I see the world through a different lens than most. I felt as if I was a caretaker to my siblings and my parents. It was MY job to be the best behaved, get the best grades, be the best athlete, and to stay out of trouble in order not to be an additional burden to anyone! My struggles and triumphs seemed to be secondary to everyone else.
I started the Sandy Feet Initiative after “seeing” the brothers and sisters of children with special needs. As a late starter to the sport of surfing, and perhaps more sensitive to the magic of surfing, I began volunteering for several nonprofit surf programs. I found I had a knack for teaching others to surf and enjoy the sea. While at several events for children with special needs, I would often see the “typical” brothers and sisters sitting on the beach, driving their parents crazy, or just feeling kind of useless. One particular young girl, when I asked her if she wanted to try surfing, replied that she couldn’t because she was not autistic.
This response pulled at my heartstrings! When I got home, I googled the siblings of children with special needs. I was amazed at all the information that came up! Not only do they develop mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression, but they often have the longest relationship with their sibling, one that will last their lifetime and their responsibilities are forever.
I created the Sandy Feet Initiative as an outreach to the siblings of children with special needs in 2017, with the help of several fellow surfers and my husband. Shortly after, I discovered there was already an international support program called Sibshops. We adopted their model and took it one step further, we give the kids a coping skill a special one for our team, the gift of the ocean.
Our beach programs involve discussion and arts and crafts to facilitate an open and safe conversation with the kids, and then we “soak their heads!” We offer them to surf and boogie board instruction and let them just be kids, without the pressures of home.
We started our programs as two day beach programs at Linda Lane Beach Park in San Clemente and shortly realized the kids needed more. We have added an after school Sibteen program for teens ages 13-18 and offered weeklong camps this past summer. To date, we have reached 125 siblings in the area, from North Orange County down to La Jolla!
We are a volunteer based not for profit and get our volunteers from all walks of life. These include our teenagers from our Sibteen program, adult siblings who have heard about our program and of course, fellow watermen and surfers. This fall we added an afterschool Sibshop program as well as our Sibteen, and next summer we are looking to expand to four weeks of camp.
About a year ago, we also began to offer Sibshops at Children’s Hospital of Orange County. These 2-3 hour workshops are aimed at the siblings of children in the hospital once a month.
Has it been a smooth road?
Is creating a not for profit ever a smooth road????!!!! I have learned so much in the last few years. I had never run a nonprofit before! It is a completely different business model, but it still needs to be treated as a business. Of course, effective fundraising is an ongoing challenge, but we have been successful at reaching our operating costs every year.
I would say the biggest obstacle includes beach access as well as building awareness of our siblings’ struggle. Beach access in Southern California is tough, it requires a lot of schmoozing with cities, counties and the state. Permits are expensive and hard to come by. Oftentimes it is because they see us as a “surf school” which we are not, we are an outreach program. Slowly but surely, we are creating awareness of what we do and the difference we can make in the lives of thousands of families, and as I am fond of saying “They will come to us.”
The even greater struggle for Sandy Feet Initiative is creating awareness of our sibling population. Nine times out of ten, when I tell people what we do, their response is confusion. Our siblings are invisible to society! They are the overachievers, the star athletes and oftentimes go into careers in social services. Our kids need recognition for all they do as well as understanding from their peers and teachers. We hope to create greater awareness and appreciation for all they do!
Tell us more about the business.
Well, I have already explained most of what we do…but, I can tell you that what sets us apart is that we are the ONLY beach program directed at the siblings in the world!!!!! Yes, we are one of a kind. There are many beach programs directed at the families of children with special needs, but we are in a class of our own. Yup, that is what makes me most proud.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I wouldn’t even begin to explain what are industry is! I see Sandy Feet Initiative and Sibshops as a whole growing as awareness grows. We have had so many inquiries to offer many more programs in Orange County and San Diego County, we cannot possibly support that amount of growth. Over time, I would love to see us expand! The more kids we can reach, the better.
- Address: 27525 Puerta Real, #285
Mission Viejo, CA 92691
- Website: www.sandyfeetoc.org
- Phone: 7142063810
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: Sandy Feet Initiative
- Facebook: Sandy Feet Initiative