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110 kids take over the ocean for Keiki Paddle

For the sixth year in a row, more than 100 kids brought out their stand-up paddle boards early Saturday morning for the Keiki Paddle.

After four hours and an 11 mile journey, 110 kids made it to shore.

The Keiki Paddle helps raise money for a child with a life-threatening illness and a local-non profit. Samuel Helfand, 7, is one of this year’s beneficiaries.

“It was really fun. I hope I can do it again sometime,” said Samuel.

He led the group of kids to East Beach after their trek from Campus Point near UC Santa Barbara.

“Seeing all these kids coming in from the ocean like that, watching from the ocean all morning was just incredible. And to see all these people who were waiting for us on the beach was just absolutely so inspiring,” said Mark Helfand, Samuel’s father.

Samuel has a rare type of cancer, but events like these help him feel like a healthy kid.

“Things like this just boost your spirits even more and make you forget about doctor’s appointments or other things you might have to do,” said Heidi Helfand, Samuel’s mother.

Each of the 110 participants raised at least $150. Some of the kids raised upwards of $1,000 for both Samuel and the Gwyendolyn Strong Foundation.

“Kids helping kids. That’s the coolest part of this,” said Steve Campbell, with the Keiki Paddle.

The foundation focuses on spinal muscular atrophy and donates iPads to children with the disease.

“A touch screen can literally allow them to speak for the first time, and we’ve granted 150 iPads to children around the world with this disease and the Keiki Paddle is going to allow us to do is just do more of that,” said Bill Strong.

After all the paddling, the 7-to 16-year-olds took a much needed break, but they’ll be back in the water for next year’s paddle.

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