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,

 

Nancy

L IS FOR THE WAY YOU LOOK AT ME (LOVE IS MADE FOR YOU AND ME)

L IS FOR THE WAY YOU LOOK AT ME (LOVE IS MADE FOR YOU AND ME)

​L is for the way you look at me
O is for the only one I see
V is very, very extraordinary
E is even more than anyone that you adore can
Love is all that I can give to you
Love is more than just a game for two
Two in love can make it
Take my heart and please don’t break it
Love was made for me and you
L is for the way you look at me
O is for the only one I see
V is very, very extraordinary
E is even more than anyone that you adore can
Love is all that I can give to you
Love is more than just a game for two
Two in love can make it
Take my heart and please don’t break it
Love was made for me and you
Love was made for me and you
Love was made for me and you

This is a song made famous by Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, and much later in the Kitty Kat Lounge. (Whatever and whoever they are!)

In February, these lyrics often just scroll around in my brain. My dad sang it to my mom, my mom hummed it every time she wanted to talk about romance. We would dance to it when we wanted to slow dance and feel like adults. “Love is all that I can give to you.” Isn’t that the truth? Especially in the last year. With so many material things that have dropped off our radar, the loss of jobs, income, homes, schooling, sports, recreation, therapy and companionship, we will always have love. How we chose to give it to each other and share with others has made the difference in how we have weathered this pandemic.

We have learned so many ways to share our love. A Friday “quarantini” with friends and neighbors, some home-made soup for friends and family, a dinner ordered from our favorite local restaurant or a phone call to a long lost buddy, are all ways we have shared the love in the past eleven months. When our “littles” patiently explain some computer issues to their grateful grand-parents and offer a little Tik-Tok lesson, and when a drive-by visit ends with the biggest air hugs, we experience a new kind of love. Love once removed from touching, but love all the same.

When companies and non-profits pivot on a dime to create new ways to improve our health and welfare by making masks, medical supplies and new modes of service, we are showing true love to our communities. When restaurants feed the hungry with their food, so it doesn’t go to waste, and when our facilities are used for testing and vaccinations, our country is sharing the love. When our first responders risk their lives so others may live, that is the greatest love of all. For human-kind.

This year the L word seemed to be very much about LOSS. Let’s welcome February and take the time to spread your love. Remember to give yourself a bit of that love as well. Here’s an idea that I read on a tribute website that fits perfectly with the theme of love:

Millions of people around the world are about to say the iconic words lovers have whispered for centuries, “I Love You.” What if we told you there’s a way to take the Holy Grail of human connection a thousand steps further?

It’s simple: Just add the word “because.”

Jimmy, I love you because your life has given my life purpose and joy.

To our JMMF family and supporters, I love you because you have helped to make “Living The Dream” a reality and we truly have healed ourselves and others, one wave at a time.

See, that was easy! Because, even writing those words made me feel happy. Try it!

With love,

Nancy

Sail Away Into The Holidays

Sail Away Into The Holidays

Sail Away Into the Holidays

Some years it’s easy to say good-bye and sometimes it is breathtakingly horrible.  I think we all agree that 2020 was one for the books.  As we crawl towards the finish line, hoping to make it through with our health and sanity, I can truly say that the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation has found grace and support as we continued to reach out to the at-risk children, Marines, and Vets who have become part of our family.  We have not had many sandy toes and achy bodies from pushing our athletes into the waves, but we have been able to reach out on land through our virtual Ocean Therapy sessions.  In the fall, we returned to Camp Pendleton and added a great group of Vets from Warrior Foundation Freedom Station in San Diego.  We have stayed in touch with all of our agencies and they are all hoping to return to the beach with us, as soon as it is safe to do so.  I am so honored that our volunteers found new ways to help, by sending notes and letters to our military participants, and by cleaning their closets and donating wetsuits, boards and all things surf. When we get back to the beach, we will have new equipment, larger boards and wetsuits for all!

As I sit down to write this, I wonder how this year would have affected Jimmy.  Like most of us, he would have searched for surf and probably found an exotic place to stay.  But he would have returned home for the holidays, as he loved this season of family and giving.  Below is a little collage of our last holiday seasons.

We took a magical trip to Puerto Escondido that I shared with you in an earlier blog.  Jim truly adored that family vacation, and when he came home, decided he would pursue a new skill. He was teaching himself to paint and he began painting like a man possessed.  Whenever I would call, he would grab the phone and excitedly describe what he was working on. That last Christmas, I was told I couldn’t just stop by his compound on Franklin Street in the weeks preceding the big day. It was a busy time, so I didn’t give it much thought.

When Christmas Eve finally arrived, we made plans for Jimmy to come to our house the next morning.  Not too early. However, we knew he would be up most of the night….because he never lost the childish wonder of waiting for the first light of morning and turning on the Christmas music, while he opened his stocking.  We always asked Santa to put a lot of fun stuff in his giant red stocking, so it would give us a few more minutes to sleep before he came bounding up the stairs to let us know it was time to open all the presents.  And, at 34…he still arrived early and ready to roll.  As Jeff, Jim, my mom (the Booster) and I stumbled down the stairs, he seemed especially excited to get going.   We ate our bacon and sweet rolls, and followed our tradition of handing one gift at a time to each person, and then we all watched as we opened our presents.  As the number of gifts dwindled, I noticed that no-one had opened a present from Jimmy, and thought to myself, “that’s strange.”

Sure enough, when the last present had been opened, he excitedly announced, “ And now is time for my presents to you,” and we all piled into his huge red beast (I can’t remember the make of the giant truck he had just purchased online, perhaps you do! Maybe it was a Suburban?). Mom and I sat in the front with Jimmy. Jeff and Jim, sat squished in the back seat.

As we approached El Segundo, Jimmy was singing carols and was as excited as could be.  We parked in front of the house, went up the stairs through the decorated patio, ablaze with lighted surf boards and poinsettias, and he threw open the door.

His apartment was sparkling and he had decorated a great tree with some of our old ornaments: the silver snowflakes with our names on the back and ones that he hand-made in the past years.  The first thing I noticed was a brilliant painting that captured the sea, the sun and the giant sailfish I caught on our last vacation, with a teensy bit of help from Jimmy.  The sailfish was jumping straight out of the water, towards the sun.  On the bottom of the painting, the word MEXICO was splashed in the brightest yellow print.  He also wrote me a beautiful letter with a vivid description of our adventure.

It’s funny, but I can’t remember what anyone else got that morning, because I was so touched by his rendering of one of the most magical moments we ever had together. Jimmy was a man of so many talents and passions. When he wanted to do anything, he threw his whole being into learning and creating and sharing. What a gift.

Jimmy was gone by the following Christmas, leaving a hole in our hearts and souls. So many unanswered questions.

I look at that painting every day. I can feel his arms around me while firmly helping me maneuver the fishing rod while I slowly reeled that magnificent sailfish to the boat.  We let it run, while patiently bringing it closer and closer.

“Tranquilo, mom,” he would say.  When he finally helped me reel the fish on to the deck of the boat, he said a little prayer for its life. Then, we headed to the distant shore to share our fish with the villagers who waited on the beach to see each day’s catch, and barter to buy the prized delicacy. We shared our bounty with the villagers and had the best holiday meal ever!

We said good-bye to 2004 in a daze of disbelief and sorrow.  We will say good-bye to 2020 with relief.  The years between have been challenging, wonderfully inspirational, trying, and yes, eventually so filled with love and accomplishment for a shared mission in Jimmy’s name.  As always, I will end by saying we could not have made it through the ups and downs of this life, without all of you. You keep Jimmy in your hearts each time you share the passion for surfing and surprising our participants with the many gifts of the ocean.

Happy Holidays! Enjoy this collage and perhaps go out and paint a fabulous picture for someone you love.  Gifts from the heart are the best gifts of all. There is no better way to start, than just do it!

With so much love this holiday season. With faith and belief that 2021 will bring health and healing to all.

Love,
Nancy
December 2020

** Congrats to Chris and Laura Brown on the birth of Taylor James Brown.
**RIP sweet April 28th. Jimmy’s birthdate rescue kitty

Going Virtual When in Covid….Get Creative!

Going Virtual When in Covid….Get Creative!

Wow, what a difference a year makes. I just read my blog from 2019 and it said everything I was thinking of saying today. My head is spinning with images and thoughts about all the past Jimmy’s. But today, I’ll talk about the future. In a year when we had to say “no” to so many events that were meaningful and helped raise awareness of the incredible work we have been doing for 16 years, we can finally say YES!!

Yes, we are presenting the International JIMMY Surf Fiesta Team Challenge in October/November and we hope you will all participate! Something different for sure, but with all the elements of fun that the JIMMY is known for!! Look for the details on the JMMF homepage, on social media or use this link.

Since we can’t gather on the beach like we normally do, we invite surfers and friends on teams of 4, to submit their best wave. You have the month of October to sign up, and submit videos. If you don’t know how to video and upload your best waves, you can call our JMMF ambassador and all around great volunteer, Nate Goldberg @310-321-8004 and he will take care of it for you.

I can’t wait to see families submit their best waves, and Jimmy’s friends from all over the world, submit theirs! Kevin from Tahiti, Fernando from Spain, Yoni from Israel, the Bru’s from Canada, we can’t wait to see what you submit! All the little rippers from Austin and Riley’s gang on 22nd Street can surf against the Tiani’s gang from 4th Street. The Berkeley brothers and sisters can surf against the USC bros and gals, and the ripper girls like Charlotte and Kyra can create their own girl power teams. The Silva family, Gellers and the Eicks can finally be back together for competition and the Ulrichs can defend their Beach Lounger awards. South Bay Boardriders can field a few teams, as can the Mira Costa and Redondo surf teams. Sypder and ET all have the chance to win this year. This is the only year you can choose your own team, ride your own board, and control your own destiny at the JIMMY!

This year, for the first time ever, we will not be asking our wonderful sponsors and donors for anything other than to join the fun. Instead, we will support our local friends and purchase gift cards from them! As a non-profit, its’s an unusual way to conduct business, but each and every one of our local donors and sponsors have been so true blue to JMMF and have honored Jimmy’s memory in such a tangible way, we are happy to support them during these difficult economic times. We hope you will continue to support our local shops, restaurants and companies as a way of thanking them for all they mean to our community.
I know Jimmy would love to see all his friends from around the world and across the street, surf together. He would also be stoked that so many young groms have been able to surf the JIMMY. It is our dream that this tradition will continue as long as the waves roll in. In Jimmy’s memory, please help us make this dream come true.
Here’s the newest JMMF Jimmy Logo to add to the group above. Does anyone have all the JIMMY T-shirts, starting in 2005? If so, please send a photo and we will feature you and your photo in the next JMMF newsletter!
Here’s some fun photos from years past, with thanks to Steve Gaffney, Brent Broza, Gus McConnell and Kevin Cody. We can’t wait to see your videos and out-takes!
Thanks for reading!

Nancy

Gratitude is My Attitude

Gratitude is My Attitude

This is how I like to remember Jimmy.  A bright smile, a big hug and that “aw mom,” look he got when I asked for “one more photo!”  I am so grateful for every single time I rounded my kids up for “just one more!”  This photo was taken before the infamous Iron Man, where year after year, he would win the paddling part of that July 4th debacle, but lose it in the chugging contest.  Not a shining moment for any parent, but a rite of passage in the South Bay.

Today, almost 16 years to the day he took his life, I can honestly say my heart is full of gratitude for the 35 years we had together, and for his legacy through the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation.  In the midst of this Covid catastrophe, I have been so proud to share the amazing work we have done in Jimmy’s name.  Even though we have not been able to help others through our adaptive surf sessions, and the therapeutic work of sharing on the beach, we have reached untold numbers of people who read the articles about our Ocean Therapy Program in  The Global Journal of Community Psychology – Special Issue.  Ocean Therapy is now evidence based science and has become a world-wide practice in the 15 years since we founded our ground-breaking Ocean Therapy Program.

I am grateful that the guys in my family encouraged me to learn to surf when I was 50.  I could finally understand the passion that took them around the world and down the street.  I could feel the power, freedom and rhythm of the ocean that continues to heal all of us. And it was just plain fun!  No longer just for the guys, along with SCUBA, it was family fun!

 

My heart is full when I think of how close Jimmy and Jeff were for all of Jimmy’s 35 years.  He was more than a big brother, role model and best friend  to Jeff. 

He shared his life, thoughts and philosophy to a generation of Jeff’s friends.  I honestly don’t remember them arguing or picking at each other like other siblings.  Not that Jimmy, Brent, Darren, Dieter and friends did not torture Jeff and his buddies by holding them upside-down over our fireplace, or “pants” them and give them “nugies.”  Boys are boys and that was just what happened!  

Their close bond started the day Jeff was born and continues today, as Jeff shares stories and photos of “Uncle Jimmy” with Riley and Austin.  I am so grateful that both Riley and Austin surf and share those stories about their Uncle Jimmy and JMMF, with their little grom groups. I look forward to all of them helping with Ocean Therapy when we can safely return to the beach.

I am beyond grateful for the original JMMF Board and the love and vision they showed, in laying the groundwork for the work we have been able to do in Jimmy’s name.  The dear friends, relatives, and Jimmy’s first and best students served such an important part in the growth of JMMF.  The new board members who have come to us because they wanted to make a difference in the lives of so many, even though they never met Jimmy, have brought light and wisdom to our program.  And to our dear therapists, beach coordinators and trusty special project coordinators, thank you does not even begin to say how much we value you.

And finally, to all of you who have volunteered, developed research methods and communicated data for publication, sponsored, made in-kind donations of goods, services, amazing food and goodies, taken photos and videos, wrote articles about Jimmy and JMMF, judged contests, performed at events, designed and created our material and equipment and opened your homes and hearts to us and so much more, I am profoundly touched and forever grateful.

A dear friend recently asked, “will the pain ever go away?”  I found I could honestly say, “It never leaves you, but changes form.”  Most days, I can truly say, “Jimmy’s life brings me an attitude of gratitude.”  I love you my dear one.  Today and every day.

Thanks for reading, stay safe and we will see you at the beach again soon.  A little gratitude goes a long way these days!

Please remember how Jimmy lived.  Find a plumeria or flower and walk down to the beach or your favorite body of water, close your eyes and think of that smile.  Let gratitude wash over you and share that feelings with your loved ones.  That’s how we can honor Jimmy today and every day.

In loving memory of Jimmy’s friend Chaun Ralls, and our dear friend and JMMF supporter, Brad Stevenson.

 

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