Sunday, October 1, 2023

Access for all: GRiZ fundraiser brings in $30K for CB nonprofit

GRiZ performed two sold out shows at Live Oak Bank Pavilion (see photos from that at the end of the article) on Friday and Saturday before taking on another Sunday in Carolina Beach, with funds raised going to Ocean Cure. (Photo by Rob Roane Photography)

CAROLINA BEACH — Ocean Cure had a busy weekend on Pleasure Island.

The local nonprofit organization — which helps make the beach and surfing accessible for people with physical challenges — hosted its largest surf camp, Life Rolls On, Saturday. It brought in 100 adaptive athletes and 500 volunteers to help them get onto the beach in wheelchairs and mount adaptive surfboards.

By Sunday, the nonprofit’s fundraiser, GRiZmas in July Beach Party, welcomed national performing DJ GRiZ to a beachside stage at Carolina Beach Pier. The effort was also coordinated by Ocean Cure and 98.3 The Penguin (full disclosure: 98.3 Penguin is the sister company of Port City Daily, run by Local Daily Media). 

It resulted in $30,000 raised.

“All of our camps are offered free of charge to everybody,” Ocean Cure founder Kevin Murphy said. “It’s the one thing we make sure of.”

A lifelong surfer, the founder started Ocean Cure almost two decades ago after he first volunteered with Life Rolls On, which hosts adaptive surfing events worldwide. 

“I became good friends with the founder Jesse Billauer, who was a former professional surfer and was injured and broke his neck,” Murphy said. “Yet, he kept surfing and started Life Rolls On to inspire others. We’re kind of like the local chapter that helps to run the event and it allows other people to learn what adaptive surfing is all about.”

Ocean Cure became an official nonprofit in 2009 and Murphy, a physical education teacher who will work  at Carolina Beach Elementary starting in the fall, decided to tap other educators who were interested in the outreach.

“We really wanted to give back a little bit by bringing children and adults with disabilities out into the ocean,” he said. “Since we started, it’s grown tremendously.”

In 2023, the nonprofit hosted 35 adaptive surf camps and roughly 10 paddleboard camps, the latter in collaboration with Little Pink Houses, for women going through breast cancer treatments. 

Ocean Cure also has partnerships with Wounded Warriors, Access of Wilmington, the senior center, assisted living facilities, Carolina Sled Hockey out of Raleigh, and  Education Without Walls to help disadvantaged youth, and others.

On Monday, eight instructors took out 30 people. 

“We just work together as a team,” Murphy said. “There’s a million different ways that someone may want to ride on a board, whether they have a paralysis or if someone has a trachea tube. We can have somebody sit on the board and hold that person or put them in a lifejacket with two people behind them. We just have to adapt to what each person needs.”

The GRiZ show is one of two fundraisers the organization hosts annually — the other being the Neon Bike Brigade, which brings in $50,000 annually. The rest of Ocean Cure’s donations come privately or from Murphy’s for-profit surf school he hosts in July.

“We work on a $100,000 operating budget,” he said, adding not one penny goes to administrative fees or salaries. 

Everyone who works for Ocean Cure is on a volunteer basis. Thus, all money raised goes directly back into the community for the nonprofit to install and repair accessible flooring onto the shoreline for wheelchair accessibility. So far they’ve placed mats for public use at the Carolina Beach Boardwalk and other accesses, including Alabama Avenue and behind the Marriott. 

“Our mats go out significantly toward the high-tide line and spread out,” Murphy said, so the wheelchairs can get close to the water.

Ocean Cure also offers beach-accessible wheelchairs to families for free during their visit on the island (anyone can reach out via the website or social media). It purchases adaptive surf boards and life jackets to utilize annually through its many camps. 

Murphy plans to put the money from this year’s GRiZ show toward those needs, as well as upkeep of storage to house the equipment.

Thousands of fans flocked to GRiZ’s midday concert on the north end Sunday. Ocean Cure and Carolina Beach Bar Club provided roughly 50 volunteers.

“There was a ton of hesitation from council members and the mayor and the police department, the fire department, lifeguards, obviously, knowing more than 3,000 people were coming down to the north end, bringing more traffic,” Murphy said.  “But there’s been comments that they were just floored by how there weren’t any major problems.”

The Detroit DJ was coming off of two sold-out GRiZmas in July shows at downtown’s Live Oak Bank Pavilion Friday and Saturday, each bringing in 7,200 people.

“It was a magical way to close out the weekend,” according to Beau Gunn, general manager for Local Daily Media. 

Three-thousand tickets were sold to the GRiZ show on Sunday, though more people surrounded the permiter of the Carolina Beach Bar venue to catch a glimpse of the Detroit DJ. (Photo by Rob Roane Photography)

Gunn, who books bands for Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, where GRiZ first performed locally in 2017, helped secure the artist for the fundraiser.

GRiZ plays dubstep, trip hop, and electronic sounds and has thrown iconic summertime celebrations in the area for fans over the last few years, initially hosted on Mason’s Inlet, south of Figure 8 Island. 

Last year was the first time it transitioned into a fundraising event, then hosted at Fort Fisher; it effectively raised $18,000 for Ocean Cure. The 2023 concert brought in 40% more and was attended by 3,000 ticket holders, with roughly 2,000 more watching from the beach around the perimeter’s venue, Gunn said.

GRiZ performed for two hours, with Flamingos and DGPLN also taking the stage.

It may be the last time the artist is in Carolina Beach, at least for a while. GRiZ announced he was going on an indefinite hiatus from touring beginning in the fall. 

“We hope to get him back eventually,” Gunn said.

Photos from the fundraiser can be seen below, taken by Rob Roane Photography, followed by photos from the Live Oak Bank Pavilion concert by Tom Dorgan of MoonFrog Media.

Photos from Live Oak Bank Pavilion Concert

Photographer Tom Dorgan of MoonFrog Media: “There was a fan wedding, an engagement, and GRiZ literally and figuratively brought the heat. Pyrotechnics helped get the show started with a row of fire highlighting the stage. It was pretty hot, but what a cool visual. There were three opening DJ sets — Saka, followed by Black Carl. It was during his set that a couple got married toward the back of the lawn. Smoakland was the last set before GRiZ took the stage. Venue staff members commented on what a great crowd the GRiZ fans are and how we could use more of the open, positive and respectful attitude they exude.” 

Black Carl
A couple got married during the Black Carl set.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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