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Fallen Waterman group fulfils college dreams for surviving kids

Fallen waterman paddle out: Image via Mark Hanley




Humanitarian Updates

Group seeks to help pay for college for those kids who've lost a surfing parent

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 15 June, 2017 - Northern California’s Mark Hanley started the Fallen Waterman's Foundation after losing a close friend suddenly in the surf. The death impacted friends and the local surf community for sure, but the group who suffered the most was the man’s family.

Hanley realised that a great way to help out would be to look after the departed surfer’s kids via a scholarship program - to help the children of fallen watermen or women get the college educations that their parents would want them to have.

Hanley undertook this task, which may sound easy at first but involves hours and hours of logistical hurdles, because he believes that we all have benefited so much from our experiences in the water and this was the best way he could think of to give back.

Why did you start the Fallen Waterman’s Foundation?
An incident happened up at Drake's Bay a number of years ago where a local legend, Dirk Denny, was surfing with his daughter while his wife and other daughter were in on the beach. You can go to the "Our Story" dropdown under the "About Us" tab on our website  to read about the details.

The story was told to me by the retired fireman, Tim Ecke, who was in the water that day and tried to save Dirk while his daughters and wife helped. Dirk was flown to the nearest hospital and Tim drove the wife and daughters where they found out their Dad had not made it.

All I could think about was how Dirk's daughters' lives had changed in an instant and what could I do for them. This incident is what inspired me to start the Fallen Waterman's Foundation.

What need does your organisation fill?
The mission of the FWF is to help the children of fallen watermen or women get the college educations that their parents would want them to have. Our goal is to pay the college tuitions for these children. The FWF is open to the everyday waterman that has made the ocean part of their lives, not just professional or sponsored athletes. The other key point is that the person does not have to have died while pursuing their passion. All of us know a family in our local surf community that has lost a Dad or Mom to disease or a car accident and have young kids still at home. These kids would be eligible for an FWF college grant.

The Fallen Watermen's logo and founder, Mark Hanley


Share with us a story where you feel FWF has really helped someone.
The "Meant to Be There" story on our website is a perfect example of how the FWF can positively affect the lives of the children of fallen watermen or women. Dirk Denny was a commercial/residential painter. Although one of his daughters in now getting ready to graduate from college the next one is just heading there. Quite frankly, I had no idea what it would take to set up a 501(C)(3) charity and to build a website. It's taken a lot longer than I could have ever imagined. Thanks to the help and generosity of friends up and down the coast it's finally happening. An example of this would be O'Melveny and Myers Law Firm is Los Angeles. My high school friend, Fram Virjee, was a partner there and they not only submitted the application for me, they also paid the filing fee.

You mention heart health on your website. Why is that important?
Many of us that surf regularly think that we are fit inside and out. Most of us don't know that, according to the AMA, the first symptom in 50% of all heart attacks is "sudden death". There are 7 risk factors related to heart disease:  family history, stress, inactivity, smoking, high blood pressure, blood chemistry (high cholesterol) and diet. Out of all these the only one we can't control is "family history". Bottom line, it's important for all of us over 40 years old to make sure our heart is as healthy as we think it is by getting our blood chemistry and heart checked and continuing to do all the things we can to fight the other 6 risk factors I mentioned.  

Given limitless resources what do you see FWF being able to achieve?
A college education, even at a public university, can cost over $100,000 for four years. Our plan is to establish a network of "ambassadors" in every beach community who will pursue potential donors, create events and reach out to the local companies and establishments that profit from our passion for the water.

Building our Facebook community of friends is another great way to establish a worldwide presence. Causal Marketing is also an important vehicle to create a long term, steady flow of revenue. A good example of this is our ambassador in Orange County, Jon Berger, who has the Bald Jonny's Longboards label. He is putting the FWF logo on every board he sells and will give a stipend back to the FWF to go towards college grants.

The ambassadors will also reach out to the families in need that have suffered a tragic loss and help them get connected with the FWF. The next step will be to also provide counseling for the family members to deal with their grief. We already have had some therapists offer their services, free of charge.

If we had "limitless resources" our ultimate goal would be to pay the full college tuitions of any child that has lost a Dad or Mom who had earned the title of being a "waterman".



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