Breaking surf barriers with the Children’s Lifesaving Foundation

Founders of the Children’s Lifesaving Foundation and the Mighty Underdogs founders smile for a photo with surf campers during the surf camp event on Friday, July 28 at Zuma Beach. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT

The foundation has been partnering with organizations to provide children with life-changing experiences

The Children’s Lifesaving Foundation has begun hosting its Coastal Eco-Mariners Surf and Beach Camp at Zuma Beach, and for most youth, it will be their first time even visiting the beach. 

CLF Director of Development Francesca McCaffery wanted to thank the California Coastal Commission’s Whale Tail Grant-year, as it was their signature fund for the surf camps.

“We we’re able have many more sessions this July, we have seen over 250 underserved youth and teenagers,” McCaffery said. “The last surf camp we had Homeboy’s Industry, and that day was just so extraordinary, we’ve been partnering with them for almost 30 years, so it’s always incredible to see them every year.”

Homeboy Industries is known as the largest gang rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world and provides hope, training, and support to formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated people, allowing them to redirect their lives.

The surf camps followed last month’s Wilderness Day Camps at King Gillette Ranch. CLF provides a great mix of both classic camp activities like swimming, arts and crafts classes, special Wilderness Hikes, and actual live animal workshops.

“We love being out here, we hire our friends from the Mighty Underdogs to be our surf instructors, and we have a great Counselor in Training (CIF) program, we have some young high school kids that also volunteer, it’s a great way for them community service as well, and from what they tell us, it’s highly impactful for them just to be around the kids,” McCaffery said. “One of the kids has never been to the beach, and now she’s been on the surfboard like three times, it’s extraordinary what it can do to a child’s confidence, overcoming fear and resilience — it’s incredible.”

CLF also welcomed campers from North Valley Caring Services, Operation Progress, My Friend’s Place, Covenant House, and Upward Bound House.

“They came like four separate times, and that’s one of the things we want to illustrate and demonstrate is creating stewards of the Southern California Coastline, and kids who are going to grow up and take care of the beach and the environment,” McCaffery said. 

The Mighty Underdogs co-founders Tim Hazelip and Jean-Pierre Pereat we’re providing the surf lessons and have partnered with CLF for nearly 10 years. 

“For me, it’s the fulfillment to work with kids that don’t have the opportunity that others do, and to really give them the same opportunity in the summer because everyone wants to have fun and some of these kids haven’t even seen the ocean or ever been in the ocean so it’s a really beautiful thing to share our love for Malibu and Zuma Beach and the inner-city kids,” Pereat said. “I’m really, really proud to have them here as well as the Homeboy Industry with us as well, they changed thousands of lives and for us to come out here — we’re doing the lords work.”

The Mighty Underdogs is dedicated to the recreational rehabilitation of participants of all ages by exposing them to adaptive surfing taught by class instructors. 

“It’s good to integrate both because they both get to see the cultural combining because no one chooses to be on the other side of the fence, and here what’s great is that when we’re all together, we’re all in the right path, which is happiness,” Pereat said. “And it’s nice to see the love and happiness that’s coming to these children that are so scared coming to the ocean for the first time; we just pour our love into them, and we just love it.”

McCaffery also wanted to thank the McHugh-O’Donovan Foundation, the Carrie Estelle Doheny Foundation, The Lawrence Foundation, the Oder Family Foundation and the City of Malibu for their grant of $5,000 and said they have been funding them for many years.

“It’s just an amazing feeling, we always have a couple kids that have never been at the beach before and it always shocks us that they’re in LA and they’ve never been to the beach,” Sean McCaffery said. “The worlds a huge beautiful place, we want to teach them to respect the earth, teach them about marine biology, and pollution in the ocean, and we need to keep the mother earth clean.”

“It’s the most gratifying work that I’ve done, I always say the kids changed out lives and if we can teach one child how to surf, it’s life-changing; the ocean is where I find my peace, it’s my temple, and just being able to teach the kids how to surf, it’s truly amazing,” McCaffery said. 

CLF also offers volunteer opportunities. Students interested in becoming CLF C-I-T (Counselor in Training) can visit to complete an application.