Miranda Fuentes: 2013 Honoree
A bubbly, fun-loving, 16-year old surfer, Miranda Fuentes has a natural gift for working with autistic children. Inspired by her younger brother Lucas who has autism, a developmental disorder that affects motor coordination, social interaction and the ability to communicate, Fuentes has spent the past five years volunteering with Surfers for Autism. The Florida-based organization uses surfing as hydrotherapy, which helps the kids open up and express themselves in an inclusive and calming environment. The organization also helps eliminate the social stigma around autism and gives the participants an opportunity to impress their families with their new capabilities.
Growing up, Fuentes was always close to her brother, but she had difficulty understanding autism and why it caused Lucas to act differently. Having no peers with autistic siblings, she felt isolated and alone in having to explain his condition to all her friends as well as frustrated with the negative stereotypes associated with the condition.
Fuentes was first introduced to Surfers for Autism when her family attended an organized surfing event in April 2008 where she aided her brother and other kids in the water to much success. She was invited to volunteer at other events and encouraged to begin training as an instructor. Fuentes soon became a master instructor, leading teams of volunteers, taking kids out on her own, overseeing registration and helping set up tents and equipment.
Fuentes has helped Surfers for Autism grow from one event with 40 volunteers to an organization that regularly caters to 200 participants, 400 volunteers and over 3,000 spectators at each event. She works one-on-one with over 150 kids a year, teaching them to surf and building lasting bonds with them. She has also become a role model for teens with autistic siblings, helping them to better understand the disorder. When she isn't surfing, Fuentes enjoys skateboarding and playing with her brothers. She also hopes to one day take over as president of Surfers for Autism.
To learn more about Miranda, click here to watch her honoree video!