Celebrate July

Celebrate July

As the country gets ready to celebrate the 4th of July, our little corner of the world prepares for all the craziness, family and friend-time that we have grown to love….or not! There are so many traditions here in the South Bay and we are lucky to be able to share our holiday at the beach together. Jimmy loved the 4th of July, from the parades in Coronado that would include soldiers and vets marching proudly down Orange Avenue, to the wild parade on the Strand in Manhattan and Hermosa Beach, which would include girls in bikini’s on roller skates, the iconic Ironman, and lots of family time in and out of the water all day. We would set up early and stay all day. The littles would nap under chairs draped with towels for shade and everyone would grab candy from Marsha’s endless bag of goodies. This was pre-cell phones, so we would actually talk, play games, sneak cold ones from our coolers and wait til sundown to watch the fireworks light up the coast. It was all one big party for Jimmy at 524 or 121. Our home was always open to Jimmy and Jeff’s friends. In between surf sessions, they would hop into our jacuzzi and if Chris P was there, we would know the drain would be clogged with sand by the end of the day! I close my eyes and remember year after year, the sights and smells of the 4th, from the barbecues to the sulfur odor of the fireworks. I’m just so grateful for those 35 years we all celebrated together.


This July, we have another reason to celebrate! The BeneFiesta, our favorite fundraising event is back after almost 3 years of Covid. On July 23, we will once again share the stoke and celebrate the good work of the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation and our ground-breaking work with at risk/at promise youth from ten different facilities, Veterans in Los Angeles and San Diego, Marines from the Wounded Warrior Battalion West at Camp Pendleton, and our newest groups: the Health Care Workers on the front lines in the battle against Covid, from Providence Little Company of Mary Hospital and Torrance Memorial Hospital. Our little family foundation has grown to be a world-wide leader in Ocean/Surf Therapy and we are ready to celebrate! Hope you can join us!

The event will be at the lovely home of Ron and Stacy Harrison in Hermosa Beach. As always, we promise an evening of surprises, unusual experiences, delicious food and beverages (no chicken and peas at round tables of 10!) This will be the first time we have held an auction online and we have some astounding items to bid on from the comfort of your home. It opens a week before the event. From a visit to the Wild West at a Ranch in Montana, (donated by Robb Stroyke) to the beaches of Punta Mita in Mexico, (donated by the Speiser Family) we have something for everyone.

Pro Surfer Alex Gray (who Jimmy taught to surf) and his friend, videographer Greg Browning, will offer a videotaped surf lesson to some lucky person or family, and famed artist Collette Miller from the Angel Wing Project will offer an original Angel Wing surfboard, to be personalized at the event. Jimmy loved angels and grew up with some on our walls. Our favorite jeweler Sig Ward donated a gorgeous diamond and emerald bracelet, and artist Dennis Chang has created a touching tribute to Bruce Lee surfboard.

Of course, there will be a Brent Broza Blur, which is huge and beyond fabulous! I could go on and on, but I hope you will hop online and visit our BeneFiesta website, buy a ticket, find a treasure or donate to help a Wounded Warrior, at-risk child, a veteran in need of support or health care worker, who needs a respite from the cares and responsibilities of dealing with daily life and death. Our Ocean Therapy program has continued to help all of these participants for the past 17 years. In August, it will be 18 years since Jimmy left us. With your help, through the Benefiesta, we will be able to reach many more in need of the healing that Ocean Therapy brings to all.

As always, thank you for your enduring support and friendship. Thanks for the memories and for the memories to be made this month. Be kind, be safe and be healthy.

Love & Light, Nancy

Tis the Season!

Tis the Season!

Ho! Ho! Ho! Home.

One thing Jimmy sure loved was Christmas Eve. From the nights in Coronado, where the local doctor donned a Santa Suit (and didn’t need a pillow on his tummy) knocked on the front door to deliver a fire engine or a big wheel, Jimmy would hardly sleep for days before the big night. He would hide behind his beloved grand-dad Jim Dick when Santa “ho, ho, hoed” outside the door and then squinted as he walked inside the toasty yellow home to deliver a much awaited gift for Jimmy and 5 years later, for Jeff. His large sleigh outside would be packed with gifts for all the boys and girls in Coronado, and the reindeer would balance on beams that went high into the sky. We’d offer Santa a shot of bourbon to warm him up, he would take a bite of Aunt Hattie’s special cookies, and leave with another hardy Ho! Ho! Ho!

Jimmy would be up and down all night, getting water, going to the bathroom, and checking to see if Santa had come back with the rest of the toys on his list. We would hear his door open and close late into the night as we feverishly tried to finish assembling and wrapping, away from his curious eyes.

As soon as the sun was up, so was Jimmy! He would jump into our bed, wherever we were, and excitedly show us what Santa had left in his industrial size giant red stocking. The rules were that he (and Jeff when he arrived) had to wait until everyone was up before going to see the tree and opening presents. This is how the stocking tradition came about: the more little gifts in the giant stocking, the longer it would take them to open, play with them and let us sleep for a few more minutes. I think this ploy lasted until the boys were in their 20’s!

Christmas 2003 was not so very different from many of the holidays before. My mom, sister Deb and family were in town, Jimmy was living in El Segundo, Jeff was home from Northern CA, and we were back at 524. We had a family photo shoot and probably had Christmas Eve pizza with the whole gang. After much laughter, champagne and opening of a few presents, everyone snuggled down to get ready for Christmas morning. The giant stocking were hung on the chimney, and the stockings for Brent and Darren were filled with surf wax and other goodies. Jimmy said he couldn’t spend the night at our house, but promised to be back early in the morning to jump in bed and open the stockings. And sure enough, he was indeed back early, but we noticed he did not have any presents in his arms. We figured he had something in store for us and went on to open presents, eat our bacon toast and coffee cake. Finally, when we were all finished opening presents, Jimmy said, “OK, now it’s my turn, everyone come jump in my truck and we will go back to MY house and finish opening presents. We all climbed in that new huge red truck that he had just purchased online, and with Christmas carols blasting, we rode along Highland, looking at the waves until we reached his apartment in El Segundo. He jumped out of the car, said to “wait a minute and then come up the stairs.” All of a sudden, there were lights flashing in red, blue, green and brilliant white. His front porch was decorated with poinsettias and his door adorned with a smiling Santa. As he opened his door, he was practically dancing with excitement! Inside, was a lovely tree, decorated with old fashion popcorn chains, some construction paper loops, and few family keepsakes like the Sterling Silver snowflakes with his name and year he received them. On top was a little star. There were presents wrapped in newspaper and comics, and he had some Aunt Hattie’s cookies waiting for us.

“I wanted to have you to my home this year,” he said. “It could be the beginning of a new family tradition.” We all loved the idea and as we looked around apartment, we saw he had carefully cleaned the whole place, and hung some of his fabulous sarongs from his travels. It was cozy, comfortable and wonderful. Jimmy had taken time and created special and meaningful gifts for all of us. I think I’ve shared the Sailfish picture he painted of our sunrise fishing trip in Puerto Escondido. He had presented Jeff with a painting of a guitar on his birthday right before Christmas. There were handmade gifts of love for everyone. If I’m not mistaken, the guys all ended up taking little cat-naps after we opened presents and had a cranberry cocktail or two. Mom and I laughed at my sleeping family and cuddled under a comfy blanket while we waited for them to wake up.

It was the first and last of Jimmy’s home holiday tradition. By Christmas of 2004, he was gone, leaving us with all the memories that 35 years created. As the years have softened the tragedy, the best of times have emerged and gratitude is the overwhelming emotion and spirit of this season for me. For those who knew Jimmy and for all of you who know him through the Foundation, I hope the stories I have shared this year have given you a glimpse into his life and who he was: as a son, brother, friend, cousin, nephew, soul surfer, lifeguard, artist, entrepreneur, traveler, musician and creative, sensitive human being. His spirit shines brightly this holiday season because of all of you.


Love, Nancy

Remember November

Remember November

November reminds me of living back east. The brightly colored trees would drop their brilliant leaves and cover the cool sidewalks and browning lawns. We would actually be happy to rake the yard, because we knew as soon as we finished raking a huge pile, we would drop the rakes, take about one hundred steps backwards and run as fast as we could to jump into the freshly piled leaves. We would wait to see who was the last person to pop their head up from the pile, and then we would start the whole process all over again. On occasion, it would take all afternoon. We would arrive home, our flannel shirts and pants embedded with leaves, twigs, and an occasional bird’s nest. I can shut my eyes and smell the musky, damp yet fresh aroma of all those differently scented leaves.

Our kids here at the beach got a watered down version of fall, often going from glorious warm October days with mild water temps and sunset surf sessions, to rainy November, with intermittent fog and cold nights. So we would “go” to fall and travel to Mt. San Jacinto or Arrowhead to play in the chilly and damp leaves before the early snow arrived. But it was not the same. I am happy that Jimmy had a chance to experience fall when we lived in Maryland, before moving to Manhattan Beach. We lived at the end of a cul-de-sac on a tree lined street. Maples, Birch, Oak and dozens of other species loomed over our house from the woods in back that bordered a small stream. The sidewalks were lined with evenly planted trees, according to our “planned community” by-laws. But even a planned community couldn’t contain a gang of kids, determined to make the biggest leaf pile in the world and then level it in a matter of seconds. Jimmy loved those leaf fights and the game of staying under the pile the longest. The picture above of Jimmy in a flannel shirt always reminds me that as much as he was a child of the beach, he loved the family traditions of fall leaf fights. It’s those little things that creep into my mind whenever I sit down to share with you.

Remember November
Speaking of sharing, we had our last Ocean Therapy session of the year at Camp Pendleton with our amazing band of Wounded Warriors. They have truly formed a surf tribe, a subset of their Wounded, Ill and Injured status at the Battalion. Every group of young men and women we have had the privilege of working with has been unique and distinct, with a different vibe and learning curve. This season has seen a severely injured and depressed participant go from sitting on a beach chair, hundreds of feet away from the water and swearing he would not put a foot in the ocean, to standing up on the outside, arms raised in a V and a smile of joy, as he rode his last wave of the session to the shore! Not only did he put his foot in the water, he earned some cred from the beach crew as he came out the ocean with a good size cut on said foot, (perhaps a sting ray or a sharp shell) but all he could do was laugh and say it was part of one of the best days of his life. And then there was another participant, who thought she would never be able to stand up, but kept trying and trying. Each session, with the help of some fantastic surf instructors, she gained more and more confidence. She began to choose her own waves and took the board out herself. Everyone cheered as she rode her last wave in and fell to her knees in joy and exhaustion from being in the water for the whole session! Ahhhh, that’s why we do what we do…to witness the stoke that Jimmy always had at Every. Single. Session. At the ending talking circle, the Marines told us that even though they had never met Jimmy, they felt his spirit on every wave. Me too.
Remember November
And last, but not least, since it is Veterans Day on November 11, I must share a Veteran story with you. On our last session with the Vets from Greater Los Angeles Veterans Hospital, we met “Sonny ” He was a gregarious man, who through a series of life circumstances had ended up at living at the “Dom” (group home for those homeless vets who participate in a live-in program). He hadn’t been to the beach in years and was more excited about trying to surf than any of the younger vets. After a wonderful and exhilarating session, where this vet had been able to stand up a few times, before becoming winded and needing to rest, we all gathered to break bread (eat El Gringo for lunch) and tell story about the day went. When it was “Sonny’s ” turn, he told us that this was one of the best days of his life and explained why. A few months prior to coming to the GLAVA program, he had decided to end his life. Addiction, homelessness and lack of connection had completely depleted his resources. He found himself standing on the rails of a freeway overpass, and took a step off to end his pain. Imagine his surprise, when he fell into a truck, transporting mattresses and landed safely, much to the surprise of the driver and passenger of the truck! He knew he had been saved for something special, and indeed…on that Ocean Therapy Day in El Porto, he found it. Surfing could be a key to a new life. Before he left, he asked Pam if he could come back and volunteer with JMMF, even if he wasn’t a great surfer…..yet!
You just don’t know how a small act can change the course of your life. We will keep our fingers crossed for “Sonny,” and all our vets, Marines, at-promise youth, and first responders who have surfed with us this year and in the past. We thank them for their service, honor their memories, and look forward to helping so many more people in the coming years. Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for your continued support as we close out this 17th year since Jimmy left us with the legacy of JMMF.

Love, Nancy

Remember November

Happy Birthday to Jimmy!

Happy Birthday to Jimmy!

Living the dream
What does “Living the Dream” mean to you? People would say that Jimmy was living the dream for most of his life. A loving family, great friends, intelligence that took him to UC Berkeley, waterman skills that made him a stand out as Los Angeles County Lifeguard, Junior Guard Instructor, and Catalina Paddler. He was handsome and had a kind heart, a sense of adventure and the open mind to really share the culture of any place he landed. While traveling, he learned French and Portuguese, and some Japanese, and was totally fluent in Spanish. He was a businessman, who at age 25, created the official Surf School of Manhattan Beach: Pure Surfing Experience, which would become Camp Surf. Not only did he open a surf camp for the kids of the South Bay, he also learned to code, so he could create a website for his growing surf company. This might not seem like a big deal today, but he opened Pure Surfing more than 25 years ago, and no one had created an online sign-up for surfers.
Jimmy surfing

On his many visits to Bali, he brought back clothing, sarongs, and Balinese sculptures that he sold to locals who dreamed of taking the trips he shared. There was even the year he returned from Peru with boxes of string bikinis worn on the beaches of Punta Hermosa, which were quickly bought up by dozens of daring Manhattan Beach gals. Jimmy wrote and wrote some more. He even co-created a reality show before there were reality shows: “Two Guys on Earth!” He and his partner would travel to exotic locations and film their life as they explored the best surf breaks, beaches, and lifestyles. MTV was interested, but it was just a bit too early! His travel stories were published by the Beach Reporter, his postcards were collected by friends around the world, for their ability to tell a whole adventure on one postcard. He wrote letters to Jeff, with travel advice…..the joys of traveling alone and being a soul surfer. He also shared the dark side of traveling alone, and the dangers that often called for quick wits and some baksheesh. He loved and was loved my many girls and women throughout his life.

And yet, he was always searching. For the next wave, for the perfect relationship, for relief from the pain that often followed a surf accident or the congenital back issue that plagued him throughout his life. His search for the meaning of life took many forms. From exploring traditional religions to experiencing the hallucinogenic kava in Fiji and mind opening experiences in Costa Rica and Bali.

He had an open mind and a huge heart. He was a searcher all his life.

So what is your idea of “Living the Dream?” Where do you search? I found an interesting quote by Andy Mort and he said this:

“To live the dream means taking something from the future; ‘the dream’, and combining it with something in the present; ‘living’. So to ‘live’ the ‘dream’ means to see the future in the present from the past.”

I hope you have a chance to “live your dream,” and when you do, please share with us. We look forward to hearing from you.

Happy Birthday Jimmy!

Love, Nancy

happy birthday

For Woman’s Day – Challenge Your Dreams

For Woman’s Day – Challenge Your Dreams

Choose to Challenge Your Dreams in Honor of International Women’s Day

Great ideas take a village. One person with a dream, passion and a plan shares with a another individual and then another. Each person adds their unique perspective and the idea moves forward. In honor of International Women’s Day, I would like to (re)tell the story of the founding of the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation and our Ocean Therapy Program.

Shortly after Jimmy passed away in August 2004, I was taking a beach walk at dusk, and literally ran into Carly Rogers running the other way. It was the first time I had seen her since Jimmy’s service and paddle out on 4th Street. I did not know her very well, only that she was a L.A. County Lifeguard who had trained with Jimmy on the beach and he had helped her learn to surf, while supervising her lifeguard training. Jeff knew her through school, water-polo and lifeguards as well. Carly explained that Jimmy had been her mentor. By helping her learn to surf, he had changed her life . We don’t often get the chance to know how our adult children have made a difference in the world, and we sure don’t know all their friends and associates. What a gift Carly gave me that night, in sharing her memories about their friendship.

After about 5 minutes of hugging and weeping and holding each other, we began to chat and Carly told me about her Masters Thesis in Occupational Therapy from USC. She shared her concept of “Ocean Therapy,” developed to increase the self-efficacy and confidence of the autistic children she taught, in a controlled and supported surf lesson. Her results from this program were nothing short of amazing. The kids would come to the beach non-communicative and fearful, and after an hour of riding waves with Carly supporting their every move, the children returned to the shore and their waiting parents with enthusiasm and huge smiles. In reporting the results of these “Ocean Therapy Sessions,” Carly was able to prove her thesis about the value of this unique way of learning. Surfing and talk therapy rolled into a one-on-one learning experience using all the senses.

As the sun was setting, we continued to talk and Carly asked if we had decided how we were going to honor Jimmy’s life. By this time, we had created the non-profit, Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation and had chosen a board of friends and relatives to help us plan how best to honor Jimmy by helping others. I immediately said, “This sounds amazing, just what Jimmy would want. He loved teaching surfing more than anything, and it would combine that love with reaching out to kids in need.” A random woman to woman connection on the beach, quickly became the core of our JMMF programs.

Carly called Jeff with her concept and then we shared it with our JMMF Board. One of our board members knew of a children’s facility that might be open to a new concept in helping their at risk children. A few weeks later, Carly, Jeff, Chris and Steve were sitting in the office of Mary Brougher, Executive Director of Hollygrove, a live-in facility for at-risk youth in Hollywood. We thought it might be a difficult sell, to explain the mental and physical benefits of an assisted surfing program that included group therapy on the beach. Once again, fate stepped in. Mary Brougher was a surfer who grew up surfing on 4th Street in Manhattan Beach. She immediately loved the concept, the academic portion of the early evidence based science (which was to become Surf Therapy) and the sheer joy of exposing the at-risk kids to a new, healthy and life-changing sport.

A few months passed in feverish preparation for our first Ocean Therapy session on the beach in El Porto, right where Jimmy had located his highly successful Camp Surf. Permits, volunteers, training, food donations, transportation, and hours of preparation went in to our first summer session with six children from Hollygrove. We knew that each child would need three people to help them navigate the waves, stand up on the board and receive the board at the end of the wave. We hoped that we would have a beach full of friends who would cheer every ride and be ready with a towel and some water when it was time to rest. Little did we know that we would have more than 60 beach volunteers show up that first morning. We knew we would serve snacks and then have a lunch delivered to eat on the beach, as Carly led enthusiastic discussions on what our participants had experienced in the water and on the beach. The hardest part of the day was always getting in and out of the wetsuits. We even had special volunteers to help with that chore. And then there was clean-up. Mark, Tommy, Chris, Jeff, and countless others. It truly did take a village, but some people went over and beyond in those early days: Jerry O and her team, Charlotte L, Mel, Susie and many many more.

In the following years, other incredible women added their unique skills to our small family foundation. Vikki M brought her camera and family to our early Pendleton sessions, Katie S learned about Ocean Therapy from her son and became a regular. Danielle, Lindsay, Tecia, Lisa and the gang created our amazing early JIMMY Family Surf Fiesta after-parties. Erin shared her special skills on the beach for a year. Carly and Kris shared JMMF with an international group, who would go on to become the International Surf Therapy Organization, created from the concepts of our original Ocean Therapy Program, developed in 2005. We also have a new generation of volunteers, who include Riley, Brynn, Gracie, Ryann and all the up and coming JMMF daughters. The mother and daughter teams from NCL and the Sandpipers who have helped on the beach and at events. Their women power and loyalty have never wavered. Today, we have Jodi, Debbie, Katie, Pam and Chloe, who help us navigate everything from everyday planning, to marketing, fund-raising and data collection for our growing evidence-based studies on the science of Surf Therapy. I could go on forever, with love and gratitude for all the women, men, girls and boys who have contributed to the growth and success of JMMF.

Since it is International Women’s Day, I wish there was room and time to personally thank every single woman (and man, but that’s for another day) who has helped me along this journey. You know who you are. I wish my mom, the ever delightful Boopster, was here to see how our foundation has helped our family and thousands of others heal. My sister Deb, Alissa, Riley and Linda have been my rocks and number one supporters. And at 99 years old, Aunt Berenice has kept our Tuesday Ocean Therapy schedule at Pendleton on her calendar, so she can ask me how it went each week. Covid threw us a loop, but we return to Pendleton on Tuesday, March 30. I’ll look forward to her call.

And from the “Grandmother of Ocean Therapy” to our incredible “Mother of Ocean Therapy,” Carly Rogers, my thanks are as deep as the sea for bringing your dream to the JIMMY MILLER MEMORIAL FOUNDATION and making it all come true.

With love on this day and always,



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