Jack Winter, a freshman film student at Laguna Beach High School, recently sat down with a local surfer to document his experiences as a volunteer with Surfers Healing, an organization that helps autistic children by exposing them to surfing.
The interview was part of the making of a short documentary Winter was working on for the MyHero Film Project, which aims to enlighten and inspire people of all ages with hero stories from around the globe.
In the film surfer Nick Hernandez talks about his connection to Izzy Paskowitz, founder of Surfers Healing, as well as his motivation to volunteer and what he gets out of spending time with the children on the water.
Paskowitz and his wife started the program when their son Isaiah, who was diagnosed with autism at age 3 and often seemed to be on sensory overload, grew calm while riding on the front of his dad’s surfboard.
“It was really cool to learn that surfing can do so much for these kids,” Winter said. “It was also really inspiring for me to see someone like Nick — who is so busy with work and raising his own son — still take the time to help others and make such a huge impact on people’s lives.
“This experience showed me that if guys like Nick and Izzy can do this, we all can take time to help other people.”
Winter said he was surprised by the personal impact the project had on him and how much he learned about other causes.
“MyHero is great because it gets everyone’s ideas out there and informs people about what’s going on around them and inspires them to help with things they wouldn’t have known about otherwise.”
Wendy Milette, director of media arts and the film festival for MyHero, said Winter’s film was one of more than 35 entrees submitted locally this year, and will be honored at the third annual Laguna Hero Festival event 7 p.m. Thursday at [seven-degrees].
“I’ve been working with Pam McKay’s video production class at the high school, helping her students to create short ‘hero’ videos,” she said. “Jack was one of her prize students.”
Five professional films and 15 other student films from the Top of the World and El Morro Elementary schools and Thurston Middle School will also be shown, including a documentary by John Barrett about Faye Chapman and her work with the homeless and “Goat Lady” Rosalind Russell’s piece about “Women Helping Women” in Nepal.
Certificates will be presented to some of the best filmmakers, as well as Mike Marriner and Brian McAllister for their project, Roadtrip Nation, a creative and compelling effort to inspire students to stay in school and find their own path in life.
The free event will also feature live jazz music by Stu Pearlman and an acoustic performance by Nick I, dinner and recycled art sculptures to raise funds for the project, and a showcase of student artwork from Kerry Pellow’s digital media class at the high school.
“The Laguna Hero Fest is more of a celebration than a competition,” Milette said. “The theme is always heroism, but this year we were trying to focus on what the heroes get out of giving, which is really at the heart of the program.”
The international film competition will take place in the fall.
MyHero was established in 1995 by mothers Jeanne Meyers, Rita Stern and Karen Pritzker, who were concerned about the lack of positive role models in the media for children.
“We dreamed of creating an online venue where people could share and discover inspiring stories of real-life heroes,” Meyers said. “The educational journal calls attention to positive [role models] who are making a difference in the world. It shows the best of humanity.”