An Interview with Ben Ricciardi, VP of surfing nonprofit Future 6
Interview by Jeremy Lux, article written by Eric Gasa
The first thing one notices about Future 6 Helping Hands Vice President, Ben Ricciardi is his sense of love and compassion. It’s engrained in his words when he speaks about the nonprofit company and swells like the waves in south Florida as he describes the memories he’s made helping special needs children; Ricciardi’s story is certainly a gratifying one. The organization, Future 6 focuses on exposing special needs individuals to action sports and surfing at no cost to them or their families.
Ricciardi, who took the reins as VP in December of last year, speaks with Jeremy Lux for Life in Motion to discuss his life story, his passion of volunteering, and the future of Future 6.
“I fell in love with [Future 6] instantly and ferociously wanted to get more involved with everything that we were doing,” says Ricciardi about his latest promotion. Growing up in northern Maine, Ricciardi moved down to southern Florida to start a marketing business.
“I was looking for some content to build for a media package and we were trying to feature a local nonprofit and that’s how I ended up meeting Donny Ottofaro who’s our current executive director right now,” says Ricciardi.
What Ricciardi experienced on the beach could be described as humbling at first sight.
“I mean, as soon as I walked up onto the beach and felt the energy of what was going on, saw the impact of what these guys were having, I instantly wanted to just dive in and get involved.”
From then on, Ricciardi did everything he could to help at any Future 6 events, even later becoming the organization’s media director; he’s been a part of Future 6 ever since.
Currently, Future 6 is focused on all physically or mentally disabled children 5 to 18 but due to the success of the outreach Ricciardi says the program has been accepting adults as well from 18 to 30.
“We don’t want to push anybody away for something arbitrary like age,” says Ricciardi.
For an example of what Future 6 does, Ricciardi describes a session he had with a completely blind and nonverbal child; he recounts helping the child onto a surfboard while volunteering at his first surfing camp.
“Once they hit the water, they light up. The expression on their face goes from nothing to just the happiest person in the world, they’re high fiving when they might not have been verbal to begin with…it’s amazing, breathtaking…almost intangible.”
Ricciardi says the ocean has healing characteristics and he may very well be correct.
“While just floating him along, he actually made his first verbal communication. His face just lit up like a Christmas tree going onto that wave,” says Ricciardi, “I got goosebumps…that’s exactly what I am talking about as to why I got involved.”
Ricciardi calls the experience indescribable and recommends people to see it for themselves. The response he gets from parents is equally overwhelming who say that there are no other programs like Future 6 in Florida. That is the reason why Ricciardi is so motivated to help his program grow; from mentorship programs and community events to extending opportunities for at-risk youth. The mission for Ricciardi is simple, he wants to help everyone he can.
Towards the end of the interview Ricciardi gets down to the foundation of his organization and aims as a nonprofit: “We want to create this culture of bringing up the youth the right way nowadays. Everybody is so disconnected. Most people don’t know their neighbors anymore and I don’t like that.”
For Ricciardi true progress is from neighborhood to neighborhood, one act of kindness after another, “The more compassion you have for you fellow man or your neighbor it creates that ripple effect, that tidal wave,” he says, “and we’ll be there surfing on it.”
For more information about Future 6 go to f6helpinghand.org or check them out on Facebook. To hear the full recording of Ben Ricciardi’s interview with Jeremy Lux be sure to download the Life in Motion podcast on iTunes.