Tyler's salty legacy lives on, helping vulnerable kids
TYLER Kennedy no doubt was smiling down on the special group of excited children as they stood up on their new surfboards and rode their first waves at Caloundra on the weekend.
The keen surfer died on a holiday in Bali in 2017.
But his memory lives on in the organisation Salty Souls Legacy, which helps disadvantaged young people enjoy the saltwater and provides an outlet for their families to become part of a surfing community.
Eight months since its inception, the group is thriving, thanks to incredible community support.
It welcomed more than 35 children in one of the first meet-ups of the year at Kings Beach on Saturday.
Siblings Tamara Smith and Michael Kennedy are dedicated to continuing the legacy of their late brother. Tyler always wanted to open a surf school, so the duo made his dream a reality by offering these vulnerable youngsters a surfboard of their own and more than a one-off experience.
"Seeing the kids' reactions when they get in the water is just priceless," Mr Kennedy said.
"It's why we do this."
The surf program offers children, aged between five and 17, a six-week, fully-funded surf program, a surfing starter kit and a surfboard to keep.
Mr Kennedy said the group had received up to 100 board donations since the initial call-out in August. These were fixed up with new accessories and given out to the children.
"The response has been incredible," he said. "We have so many we haven't had a chance to touch yet but this is just the beginning for us."
Some of the laughing faces at Kings Beach included those in foster care or from disadvantaged backgrounds.
"This could be their chance to heal. We can't rewrite their beginning, but let's try to write a brighter future," Ms Smith said. "We wanted to create a way to make their dream to surf come true."
A Salty Souls Legacy mum, Kerstin, said her two daughters lived in the water and the organisation had given them much more than some new surfing gear.
"I couldn't dream of being able to afford this for my girls," she said. "We are now a part of this wonderful community who don't put vulnerable people in a corner, but welcome us with open arms."
Daughters Kimberlie, 6, and Katherine, 8, completed their final session on Saturday and were gifted new foam boards donated by Wave Rats.
"They've loved every minute of this and are so sad their six-weeks is up," Kerstin said.
Ms Smith said their drive came from Tyler, who had a heart "deeper than the ocean".
"Some days it's tougher than others without him, but getting up everyday knowing this is all for him is how we get through it," she said.
To donate a board, accessories, your time or services, email firstname.lastname@example.org.