by Terry Rogers
His friends say Jay Leisener never gave up, even after he became a quadriplegic at the age of 17 when he broke his neck. He was determined not to be held back by the injury, earning a Master’s degree from the University of Maryland and teaching at Norfolk State University. Although he was confined to a wheelchair, he never gave up his love of the water. In an effort to help Leisener surf again, something he loved, Team Surfgimp was formed.
“Team Surfgimp was a group of people brought together to form a “Sand family” to help Jay fulfill his dream to surf,” Suzannah Frederick, a board member for the organization said. “The group grew over 10 years to quite an impressive support network, in and out of the water.”
The group is holding a fundraiser on Saturday, August 22 at the North Pole Creamery on Walnut Street from 12 PM to 9 PM. Due to COVID limitations, the event is staying small but there will be bracelets, towels, t-shirts, and sweatshirts for sale to support the organization’s grant program. The grants are used to support individuals with disabilities who require assistance to participate in desired physical activities.
“Our grant window opens on October 1 and closes December 31,” Frederick said. “Grants are announced in January. In January 2020, Surfgimp Charitable Foundation awarded $61,000 in grants. Since 2017, $110,000 has been awarded. North Pole Creamery reached out to us with ideas to support Surfgimp Charitable Foundation. Two of the employees are “sand family.” A personal connection was made between Surfgimp and their niece, Molly Ann, who was a 2019 grant recipient.”
The name of the foundation was chosen by Leisener because he wanted to have a little fun while also making a political statement. He hoped to take a derogatory term about disability and use it to challenge people’s assumptions.
In addition to the items for sale, a portion of the proceeds at the ice cream shop will be donated to the foundation. Donations can be made at the foundation’s website https://teamsurfgimfoundation.org or at the event.