Marching past supporters to a standing ovation, the Gold Coast’s Albatross Nippers held their heads high as proud members of the Surf Life Saving community.
It was the first ever time that a group of children with special needs was able to join the March Past parade at the Queensland Youth Surf Lifesaving Championships and the atmosphere was electric.
“When we arrived, there were about 30 people already standing up and clapping,” coach Nick Marshall said. “I hadn’t really planned on it, that it would be emotional for people – it was amazing.”
The Albatross Nippers were launched to provide an avenue for children with special needs to be included in surf lifesaving activities alongside their siblings and friends.
“We’re actually an inclusive Nippers. It’s not held on a special day away from the standard program – we just rotate through Nipper Sunday like everybody else,” Nick said. “It’s an opportunity to have children with special needs engage with the community.”
The mood of the day was reflected in the crowd, with some parents and Surf Life Saving officials spotted with happy tears in their eyes.
Despite having coached Nippers for over 15 years, Nick said the event was hard to top. “It was such an exciting moment, because rather than being excited for one team, everyone was excited for what was happening,” he said.
While there are few programs like the Albatross Nippers around the country, Nick has high hopes for the future. “I think we have started a conversation,” he said.