Miranda Fuentes is a 16-year-old surfer girl who has a passion for working with children with autism, a brain developmental disorder characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and even physical health issues. A 2013 HALO honoree, Miranda has combined her love for the sport and dedication to advocacy by volunteering with an organization called Surfers For Autism (SFA). We got the chance to speak with Miranda to learn more about her involvement with Surfers For Autism and hear all about what it was like to meet Austin Mahone!
Surfers For Autism's states in its mission that the therapeutic benefits of surfing for children with special needs cannot be overestimated. Inspired by her younger brother Lucas who has autism himself, Miranda has dedicated her time over the past five years to bring these children to the waves. Through the spirit of surfing, she works to build their confidence, unlock their potential, and ultimately create a safe, fun-loving space for them to flourish.
As the youngest master instructor at Surfers For Autism, Miranda told us she takes roughly 150 participants surfing each year. "I like to work with the younger age groups," she said. "Our beginning age is four. The oldest I've worked with is 14 [years-old]." She explained how she enjoys teaching the basics of the sport to the younger kids who are learning the skills for the first time. And on top of instructing these young surfers, within a given season Miranda helps SFA organize surfing events roughly every two to three weeks. But when the off-season arrives, Miranda explained how they keep their surfers involved with out-of-water activities: "We have off-season concerts inland [that feature] local musicians." She also explained that these concerts are a great way to include families that may not live near the beach.
Austin Mahone surprised Miranda on the beach to tell her she would be honored at the HALO Awards, and here's what she had to say about it: "That was really cool. I was definitely in shock! I was really excited and very honored. He was on a fat tire bike and I didn't notice him coming from the side until he was a few feet away. Then I realized it was Austin Mahone!"
When we asked Miranda how she inspires others to HALO she said, "I just like to talk to my friends about [Surfers For Autism], and they tell their friends. I'm also in charge of the Instagram and Twitter for SFA. I like to tell them how SFA can change their lives. I show them pictures and invite them to events, and just watching the kids inspires them."
When she's not in the water or advocating for autism, Miranda is a beach-girl at heart. She enjoys playing in the sand, playing tag on the beach, and building sandcastles. Oh, and dare we forget, she also loves One Direction.
Don't miss Miranda and the other amazing honorees at the 2013 HALO Awards, this Sunday, November 17th at 8pm ET!