My name is Kevin Barry and I serve on several boards and committees in our community. My wife and I have 2 daughters that attend Hermosa Valley School, right down this street, and I’d like to thank the Hermosa Beach Kiwanis Club for your generous support of our school system over the years.
In addition to being a local business owner, I am an Ocean Lifeguard for the Los Angeles County Fire Department and an Instructor for the Junior Guard Program at the Hermosa Pier- yesterday we finished the 2nd session of the program and we taught over 4-thousand kids in Los Angeles how to become safe in the ocean. This summer marks my 42nd year working for the County.
I am a Founding board member of the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation and I want to thank you for your donation to our organization this week!
In August of 2004, eighteen years ago, after a rapid onset of mental illness and a shoulder injury that kept him from surfing, Jimmy Miller took his own life and forever changed the lives of those who knew and loved him.
The Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation was established to honor Jimmy, who was an incredible waterman, he was a Lifeguard and a Junior Lifeguard Instructor. I was lucky to have taught JG’s alongside Jimmy and his brother Jeff (who is also a Lifeguard) at Marine Street in Manhattan Beach.
Jimmy started one of the first surf schools in Los Angeles and he focused his life around the ocean and sharing his joy of surfing with as many people as possible.
When we started the foundation 16 years ago, our mission statement was uncomplicated – we wanted to help as many people as our resources allow to experience the healing powers of the ocean. We believe that if Jimmy would have been able to continue surfing, he would have won the battle against mental illness. That was and continues to be our driving force.
What started out as a small, community-based foundation, largely to help the Miller Family and Jimmy’s close friends deal with the grief of his tragic loss has grown into the largest and leading organization in the world of more than 100 Ocean/Surf Therapy organizations. It’s because of support from groups like yours that we have been able to accomplish this. And this year, the JMMF will conduct close to 60 Ocean Therapy sessions throughout 4 locations in Southern California.
Our program began with an idea to help small groups of at-risk, abused and neglected children and now we are in partnership with 10 organizations helping underprivileged kids in the LA area. And, as one clinician stated of our work “These children have experienced such trauma that there are no positive memories for them to refer to. You have created positive memories for them that will serve them for a lifetime. You have inspired the very core of who they are and what they can accomplish”. Last summer I listened to one of the kids share his experience and he said “it made me feel like a God.”
15 years ago JMMF expanded the concept of using the ocean and surfing as a therapy protocol to help military members returning from conflicts in the Persian Gulf and we started our program with the Wounded Warrior Battalion at Camp Pendleton. Commanders noted that “The change at the barracks is visceral. The Marines come back from these sessions with actual smiles on their faces (and they could sleep through the night). This is something we have not been able to provide through traditional therapy.” We now conduct, on average, two sessions per month at Camp Pendleton.
We have the largest surf therapy program in the world dedicated to helping military members, offered year-round, to both active-duty Marines and veterans from all branches of the military in conjunction with the VA Hospital in West LA and have historically served more than 500 service members annually.
We also started work with a population in San Diego that are struggling with addiction, alcoholism and homelessness and many that are in recovery.
And last fall, we launched the world’s first-ever, surf therapy program dedicated to helping healthcare providers that are suffering from emotional burnout, social isolation, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues as a result of the trauma they experienced while caring for patients in the ICU during the pandemic. In the doctors and nurses, we’re seeing similar symptoms of PTSD as our soldiers coming back from battle – because COVID was, and is, a war.
The future for JMMF is bright. We are looking to expand our programming into Orange County, Northern LA County, up into Santa Barbara and other areas where our resources will allow. We want to continue to train surf therapists and beach managers that can establish satellite operations under our guidance and support.
You can be proud that the epicenter of surf and ocean therapy is right here in the South Bay. The many other organizations in surf therapy around the world look to JMMF for leadership, direction, education and the model that we have created to help as many people experience the healing powers of the ocean through surfing. What we do really does make a tremendous and positive impact in the lives of those we serve. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to join us for an Ocean Therapy session to witness it and experience it for yourself. If you have volunteered, I encourage you to share your experience and perspective with others.
The single most important and meaningful thing that the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation has done in the past sixteen years is to have saved countless lives. Through our therapeutic surf program in Jimmy’s name, we have been privileged to hear how a day of surfing has saved many Marines from suicide, how the lessons learned on and off the board have given a depressed child a positive experience to draw upon when life gets tough, and has given Vets from Viet Nam a positive experience as they desperately seek help for their decades of neglect.
We could not save Jimmy, but by sharing his life and passion with the world, we have been able to save unknown numbers of men, women, teens and children by sharing Jimmy’s love of the Ocean though surfing and the life and culture that gave him such joy.
The Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation continues his legacy of sharing the stoke of surfing and the therapeutic effects of the ocean. A generation of surfers wear our navy blue trucker hats, with Jimmy’s image on them as thousands of participants, volunteers, donors, sponsors and friends have taken part in our Ocean Therapy Sessions.
The intense concentration and physical effort it takes to stand up and balance yourself on a surfboard often takes the participant to a place where they can feel an overwhelming sense of well-being and those few seconds of happiness sometimes can help them find meaning in life.
I am proud to be part of a organization that is fully dedicated to helping others, and because our ocean therapy is so interactive, the greatest part of our program is that our volunteers also become happier and healthier – the joy is infectious and I invite you to share a day with us soon.