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The Great Ponte Vedra Paddle to benefit the HEAL Foundation is Labor Day and open to everyone. To register go to www.GreatPVPaddle.org First Coast News

JACKSONVILLE, Fla -- Sun, fun and paddleboarding! It is a day at the beach that benefits a cause close to the hearts of many families.

Autism.

"Neither one of them spoke until they were five," tells Lisa McMahan.

McMahan says around 11-months-old, she noticed her twin boys were not responding to sights and sounds the way a baby should.

"We had their hearing tested, went to a neurologist and finally at 18-months-old they were both diagnosed with autism," she says.

At first she wasn't even sure what autism was and she was living in Tennessee where there were not many support groups.

But that all changed when the family moved to Ponte Vedra and the McMahan's found HEAL, a group dedicated to helping children with autism.

"It is enormous for the parents to have people that they not only have the same thing in common with, but other things in common with," tells McMahan.

McMahan says there was something different about the First Coast. It was a place of acceptance and kindness for the autism community. One of the first activities the whole family did- the Great Ponte Vedra Paddle.

"When I did the three mile race, they got in a canoe with an adult and paddled next to me, so it was fun for the whole family," she says.

The boys have gotten stronger on the paddle boards, even completing the race! Lisa McMahan finished 3rd in the women's division and in true motherly form, she gave her trophy to one of her sons.

"I told him that it was for him because he completed the race, it was his first year to do the actual stand up paddle," tells McMahan.

Lisa says there is nothing better as a parent to see her sons light up with pride during the paddle race when they finish. Her oldest daughter is also volunteering to help and the whole family coming together to support a cause so close to their hearts!

The Great Ponte Vedra Paddle to benefit the HEAL Foundation is Labor Day and open to everyone. To register go to www.GreatPVPaddle.org

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