Surf's Up for Kids program kicks off

Wantagh program for kids with cancer


Six-year-old Max recently finished two and a half years of testing and treatment for brain cancer and is finally doing well, his mother, Ingrid says. What helped him deal with lying still for regular MRI’s was the promise of visiting the Wish Room at the Wantagh-based John Theissen Children’s Foundation afterward.

Now, Max and his twin brother Alexander – as well as other children across Long Island who are dealing with life-threatening illnesses - will be able to enjoy the newest therapeutic addition to the Wantagh-based JTCF – a Welsh Pony named Surf. And, Surf’s home at Stan Hope Stables in Huntington is just five minutes from where Max and his family live.

Children will be able to interact with the good-natured pony for 90 minutes - walking, riding, grooming and even painting the miniature horse with horse paint - by appointment.

John Theissen and his wife, Heather, kicked off the free Surf’s Up for Kids program on Saturday June 9 at the Huntington stables, where the 15-year old lives in a stall built especially for him. The Theissen’s daughter, Hannah, who’s won awards riding Surf will direct the program.

Theissen, a childhood cancer survivor, said children can focus on Surf, instead of the illness or disability they are living with or fighting.

“Their time with Surf is going to let them get away from the everyday issues they face and let them work and play with Surf,” Theissen said. “Handling a pony takes focus and at the same time Surf will help them relax why they are grooming and riding him.”

Theissen, of Seaford, has been running JTCF out of its Wantagh location for about 12 of its 25 years - helping children from infancy through age 18. What started as a holiday toy drive morphed into a year round mission that grants wishes, provides free transportation to amusement parks and helps with medical expenses.

Private and corporate donations help the neighborhood center survive and provide these and more programs. Earlier this year, the foundation bought Surf.

“Everyday I think of different ways I can help out the community,” Theissen said. “Anybody who needs our help, we’re there for them. We’ve never said no to child in 25 years. It’s what I live for.”

John Theissen’s foundation was voted Best of LI, 7 years in a row.

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