Three paddle boards used for aquatic program for children with autism stolen

 Kellie Maier and student (From Slideshare)

Kellie Maier and student (From Slideshare)

Virginia Beach, Virginia – Kellie Maier, building confidence in kids and potentially saving lives.

There Stand up paddle (SUP) boards were stolen out of the backyard of Kellie Maier over the weekend. Maier created and runs the nonprofit KelsKids where the boards are used regularly to teach special needs children water safety and skill. It is assumed that the robbers where unaware of the use of the equipment and it is hoped that they will be returned. Each board costs around $1,000 and were purchased from fundraising last year.

Talking with after the theft, Toni McCraw, who has a grandson in the program said,

“Within two days of him being in the pool with Kellie, not only was Dustin kicking, but he was able to put his arms up over his head. The kids take the swimming skills out in the ocean on stand up paddle boards, and with Kellie by their side they stand tall with confidence.

“The first time I saw Dustin stand up and hold a paddle and actually push a paddle, it just makes you want to cry. Because it’s something you never ever thought they would do.”

Autism Daily Newscast decided to find out a little more about Maier.

She has worked in aquatics as a lifeguard and swimming instructor for more than 30 years and started working with special needs children 15 years ago.  Five years ago, in 2008, she founded KelsKids which obtained charity status in Janurary 2012.

Maier told HamptonRoad.coms last spring that water-safety knowledge is crucial for those with autism and other disabilities.  Maier’s goal is to save and change lives, she said, “One splash at a time.”

She said that basic aquatic safety skills can be learned in about eight or 10 sessions. Water safety skills are critical for those with autism as drowning is one of the leading causes of death among those on the spectrum.

More information can be found on their website.

You can follow KelsKids on Twitter