Wanda Surf Life Saving Club's (SLSC) Denny Rowlands was named a Westfield Local Hero for Miranda last month.
Rowland, Wanda's club captain, is the driving force behind the Red Fins Nippers program that welcomes children of all abilities.
In its fourth year, the program had 37 participants last season and is hoping to continue growing.
Red Fins, now in its fourth year, accommodates the needs of every child that attends, whose challenges include autism, physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, visual impairment and hearing loss.
It was the biggest inclusive program along the Bate Bay Beaches this past Nipper season, very much thanks to the work of Rowlands, who originally approached the club about forming the program.
The Wanda local was one of three local heroes for Miranda and said he didn't expect to win the award but was ecstatic to hear of the results hoping it would bring good publicity to the program.
As the father of two children with autism, Rowlands said that one of the hardest things for families with disabled children was finding a place where they feel like they're part of the club.
"We do all the same things that all the other [nippers programs] do," he said. "But we are not focussed on competition; we focus on participating.
"One of our major things is we want everybody to feel like they're a part of Wanda's one club atmosphere.
"The kids wear the same uniform as every other kid down there. They do the same activities as every other kid down there. They get a little bit more support and we understand the needs of the kids."
Rowlands said he came up with the idea for the program after he came across a statistic on the high number of kids under 16-years-old, with autism that died from drowning.
"I asked myself what can I do for my kids," he said. "[I] started thinking that 'if we (surf lifesavers) can't do something about it, then that is a problem' and 'if I can't do something about it, then I'm not the person I thought I was'.
"I started talking to people about creating a program ... I got a lot of support from the membership and the executives at the club.
"And I was able to forge forward and we started the program."
For more information or to apply for the program visit tinyurl.com/yut4efwe.
The Bate Bay Gold is back
With NSW athletes unable to participate in the Coolangatta Gold, in Queensland, on November 13 and 14, Surf Life Saving NSW (SLSNSW) and Wanda Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) will hold the Bate Bay Gold.
It will run on Saturday, November 20 and is a short course endurance event held at Wanda SLSC, with competition across the Bate Bay area.
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