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JAMIE DONCHESS, San Clemente

I am writing today in full support of the Northwest Open Space project bid by Pacifico Development that includes a community aquatic center, surf lagoon, community park and equestrian center—including the “learn to ride” program and home for Surf & Turf Therapy. 

As a resident of San Clemente and a mother of an equestrian daughter who rides in San Juan Capistrano, I have noticed the disparity of income levels among the residents of our area.  The Pacifico Development bid will provide community access to an aquatic center and world-class surf lagoon. San Juan Capistrano residents will have free access to the planned community pool, as well as free riding lessons for 100 community members each week. These opportunities provide the youth of our area with activities that they would otherwise never enjoy. 

As a volunteer with Surf & Turf Therapy (a partner with Pacifico in this bid) for the last year, I see the impact that this organization has with participants young and old. Adults and children with disabilities enter the program and build strength and confidence, but maybe most importantly, find joy. The therapies employed at Surf & Turf through both the surf program and the “learn to ride” equestrian program team therapists with volunteers and achieve amazing results. These children may not be able to sit up or take a few steps. Within just a few weeks, I have witnessed huge changes and even bigger smiles and laughter. Many parents tell us that they will continue with the therapy as long as available, because it is the only time they see their child happy. I cannot overstate the value of Surf & Turf for these children.

In addition to the programs for children with disabilities, Surf and Turf also works with Unidos to provide local children the opportunity to “learn to ride.” The youth in our area often see horses and barns and equestrian centers but never get to experience the joy that spending time with a horse and learning to ride can bring. In just a few hours at Surf & Turf, the children learn about horses, walk the horses and feed the horses. The afternoon also includes riding lessons, which is clearly the highlight. We cannot begin to explain the amount of joy and confidence that doing something like riding a horse can provide a child who would otherwise never have that opportunity! 

The Pacifico Development bid would provide Surf & Turf Therapy with a permanent home and the ability to grow and expand their services. The surf lagoon included in the bid will be an extraordinary addition to their mission. Surf therapy is currently provided at the local beach.  While successful, it is difficult to access, prone to overcrowding, involves transporting heavy equipment and dependent on weather and water quality conditions. When these issues arise and therapy has to be canceled, the children have no other option. This type of therapy is key to their progress. A permanent home with a world-class surf lagoon will increase the reach and consistency of the therapy program. More children can receive the benefits of the surf therapy on a regular basis! 

This bid provides so much for our community! It is truly impossible to overstate the positive impact that this project will provide for San Juan Capistrano and the clients of Surf & Turf Therapy. Please support this bid and make this a reality for San Juan Capistrano.

Editor’s note: The proposed use of the Northwest Open Space described here will not be considered further by the San Juan Capistrano City Council. Letters in support of the mentioned project were sent before city officials announced the decision.

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