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An Opportunity to Love the Ocean

Great Opportunities, a San Juan Capistrano-based nonprofit, is teaching kids to take advantage of our coastal location.

My sweet, Filipino mother has a very active fear of water. She is scared of the obvious bodies of water: pools, oceans, rivers, etc. (Fears of , mudslides and water drainage issues are the result of what I've diagnosed as water compulsive disorder—but that’s psych fodder for another column). These trepidations could be due to the fact that she never learned to swim. 

I, on the other hand, grew up with summers filled with lessons in a neighbor’s pool. My mom's aversion to water led me to a love of my own. She would walk me down our street once a week, during her lunch break from Thrifty’s, and watch me learn to kick my legs and use my arms in the water. 

This is where I developed an affinity for all things water: swimming, water polo, surfing, etc. I wonder what it was like for her to watch me learn something she never had the opportunity to do. Would she love the ocean as much as I do had she be given the same opportunities?

Sometimes, a person just needs the opportunity. Great Opportunities, a local nonprofit, offers San Juan kids a chance to learn recreational and educational lessons about our environment and oceans—perfect for our area.

Founded by local brothers Eric and David Groos—seasoned lifeguards—Great Opportunities aims “to provide underprivileged kids the opportunity to see their potential and understand that they can achieve anything if they believe in themselves." The Groos brothers say that "the decision is theirs; our job is to give them the tools they will need to achieve.”

Eric's positive, can-do attitude is infectious. Upon meeting him, I instantly felt his passion for the kids and his belief that positive results will come from teaching them about how to take advantage of what our ocean and environment offer.

On Saturday, Great Opportunities volunteers will be at the pool at Capo Villas 1 to celebrate Earth Day with food and prizes. Teaching children to be good stewards of the environment goes hand in hand with the swimming lessons and other beach activities, such as kayaking and body-boarding, that the nonprofit offers.

They are taught to take care of our environment through lessons at the and other hands-on classes. They are given the chance to experience things that their parents might not be able to offer.

My mother saw the importance of teaching me to swim because she felt the impact of not knowing how herself. Not everyone gets that opportunity.

Emily Smith April 19, 2011 at 03:05 PM
I just checked out Great Opportunities and I LOVE IT! What a neat way to share what we love with kids whose parent's can't take them to swimming on their Thrify's break. I signed up as a volunteer and can't wait till their next event! :) Question: Did you ever get a triple scoop? Emily
Eric Groos April 19, 2011 at 03:08 PM
Thank you Melissa if any one whats more information, you can reach us at great_opps@hotmail.com ERIC
Melissa Hodge April 20, 2011 at 08:39 PM
All my life I have wanted to tackle the "triple scoop". I am still waiting to brave that feat. It would be chocolate malted crunch, mint chip and rocky road. Growing up with ice cream every day wasn't such a bad thing. If you read my other column regarding my obesity issue today...maybe it wasn't such a great habit either. ;)

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