Author: Marion Karl

Scott Holmes

Scott Holmes

Big Wave Board Member

Scott M. Holmes has consulted as a Civil and Environmental Engineer all around the world, and we are lucky to have him on our Coast. Presently he works as an Environmental Consultant, and recently he was a Director of Public Works and City Engineer for the Tertiary Water Recycling Treatment Plant, as well as an Engineering Geologist and Soils Engineer. 

 

Scott joined the Big Wave Board of Directors in 2008 and has directed the civil and structural design of the Big Wave property, as well as managed our work with the California Coastal Commission. Throughout his career, his volunteer work has included engineering an irrigation system in Cambodia, a Water system in Tibet, Church design and construction, engineering in a Russian orphanage and youth center, and for our Big Wave residence projects.

Terry McKinney

Terry McKinney

Big Wave Board Member

Terry McKinney is on the Big Wave Board of Directors. He is a Superintendent of Water Treatment and Production for the City of Santa Cruz. Along with being a project manager for all water department facilities, he is also managing a five million dollar electrical upgrade program. He has developed training and apprentice programs, and manages the maintenance and plant operations staff.  

For Big Wave, McKinney coaches several Special Olympics teams, including basketball, soccer, football, and track and field. He has served on the Santa Cruz County Mental Health Board and many organizations for children with special needs over the last twenty years.

Steve St. Marie

Steve St. Marie

Big Wave Board Member

Steve St. Marie, on our Board of Directors, is an Economist, Regulatory Analyst, and Policy Advisor at the California Public Utilities Commission. His career involves assisting government agencies and corporations regarding economic and regulatory matters, especially energy and water, and other environmental matters.

Steve excels in his analytical abilities and skills in adaptive organization, written and oral communication, and working closely with agencies, government officials, and company executives. He is involved in resolving complex issues and competing interests to develop effective policies and regulatory actions.

Kim Gainza

Kim Gainza

Big Wave Board Member

Kim Gainza has been involved in the Special Olympics since 2007 as a team parent and fundraiser for the Coastside Special Olympics basketball team. Under her management, the team has gone from seven players at its inception to over 50 players today, including four teams and 12 coaches who serve Special Olympics athletes from all of San Mateo County. Kim has brought in over 30 coaches over the years from local high schools and colleges, which provided them with unique and valuable learning experiences to take out into the world.

Kim’s fundraising efforts have raised thousands of dollars each year for this important organization, as well as hundreds of thousands of needed dollars for Big Wave.  She has been at the forefront of Big Wave’s growth, working closely with its CEO.

Kim has a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of the Pacific. She is married and the mother of three children, all grown, with her youngest daughter an adult with special needs. She is also a proud grandmother. 

Mary Ellen Berzin

Mary Ellen Berzin

Big Wave Board Member

Mary Ellen Berzin is a Doctor of Optometry and the chairperson of the Big Wave Annual Harvest Festival auction. As an executive member of the Big Wave Board of Directors, she assists Big Wave with fundraising and the accounting of donations.

Mary attended the Southern California College of Optometry and the University of Arizona, Tucson. She is married with two sons, one with special needs.

Jeff Peck

Jeff Peck

Big Wave CEO and Founder

Jeffrey Peck has been the founder and CEO of Big Wave, as well as its manager, for over 20 years. His mission is to provide affordable housing, employment and community for adults with developmental disabilities.

His tireless devotion and commitment to those with special needs includes establishing and coaching the Half Moon Bay Special Olympics basketball team; Challenger Baseball (for children and adults with developmental disabilities); and serving on the Board of Directors for One Step Beyond, Inc., which provides comprehensive programs for over 400 people with intellectual disabilities.

Jeff graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in English Literature. A Bay Area contractor for 40 years, he was also the founder and CEO of a rural telecommunications company that brought broadband to underserved rural areas of Alaska and the western United States.

Emmy’s Story

By Kim Gainza

By Kim Gainza

Emmy’s Story

I wasn’t quite 35 when I had my third child, Emmy. We were thrilled to have another baby – years after our second, and so precious. The story of Emmy is a heart-filled one, full of hope and lessons. It’s about the heart.   

 

The news quite early pulled at our heart in another direction: she would be initially diagnosed with mild aortic stenosis. Children with mild-to-moderate degrees of aortic valve stenosis will have easily detectable heart murmurs, and typically have no symptoms at all, so we were both grateful and sad to know. I sensed there was more news to come.

 

Six months later I knew something was afoot when Emmy was not reaching milestones that my other children met with ease. The weeks were filled with meeting with specialists, with positive hearing tests, followed by a relief that the heart abnormalities we were concerned about were getting resolved. All the while a happy baby would look up at me, and she was beautiful. I adored this little girl, and I was also terrified. That dichotomy was a ride of continuous emotions as I was given news constantly from pediatricians, where I was grateful again for the talent of some of them. We would analyze family photographs to build a diagnosis, which was bewildering in its simplicity. But soon we had one: Emmy had Williams Syndrome.

 

Newborns with Williams Syndrome have characteristic specific facial features that we came to recognize. Still, she was beautiful and so loving that she moves my own heart in a very special way. Williams Syndrome also presents very specific personality traits:  people with it tend to have a sweet, loving disposition— and that can be a big part of their vulnerability.

 

This was failure to thrive. This was mental retardation. But the labels didn’t tell the whole story. This beautiful child that I loved so much was adored by others, too, including her siblings. When she was two, my son John would go get her out of her crib and sit and watch Sesame Street with her. He had quite a heart as well.

 

Her teachers loved having Emmy’s positive and happy energy in their classes. I appreciated her amiable nature, her wanting to be near me, and her incredible capacity to love. 

 

Although Emmy’s diagnosis was mild, I felt fearful of what would happen to her in the big wide world. How would she survive disappointment and how could I keep her physically safe? How would I live with the strong feelings of love and helplessness at the same time? As life unfolded with Emmy, like everyone else, she had her good days as well as her bad. We rolled the dice with elementary school and she did well. 

 

We rolled the dice again with middle school, and it was tough dealing with the inevitable bullying she would experience. Somehow, I know that the children bullying had their own challenges, and we would resolve it, but I would feel the experiences deeply, and that was overwhelming.

 

But there were always days of joy. My niece wrote about Emmy while in middle school because she was asked to write about her hero. Emmy was that person for her. One year younger than Emmy, Annie had clearly learned so much. The entire family has been touched because Emmy is in their life.  Her innocence extends to everyone, and she can be over-trusting. These are things we need to continue to work on with her.

 

The staffs we have come to know through the years have been wonderful. And with that, along with her own resolve, Emmy thrived in school. She was a cherished student in High School among the teachers.  She made real connections. I saw so much strength in her every day, from studying to socializing.  This close community helped us succeed for her and with her, and the highs were so high.  But the lows were quite low, too. I wanted the very best for her. Again, it was quite overwhelming. 

 

At 18 we rolled the dice again—and we got great news. Her thriving in school took an even bigger, better turn when she attended a special needs college in Massachusetts. A weight was lifted as she thrived more than ever in a community of her own. This two-year program became four years as she came home to share the stories of her own fulfillment and happiness. Not only was she in college like her siblings had been, she was blossoming there and discovering her own identity. And we loved hearing the happy news.

 

At first a plan was born: she would come home from college and then start at Big Wave once it was built, about two years later. The Big Wave Project was an extension of what Emmy was experiencing in college, but even more. Close by in the town Princeton-by-the-Sea, a residence community would be built to fully accommodate adults with special needs, with learning and employment opportunities to keep the organization independent and specialized for someone with a developmental disability. We call these “intentional communities” because they are built on the background of highly skilled professionals who design the program based on what an adult with special needs requires—this highly complex group of human beings need what you and I need: the opportunity to thrive in an independent environment, with their peers. Big Wave was important not just for Emmy, but for any adult who would need it.


We asked so many questions. How would this affect her safety and comfort? We were assured as Big Wave grew from an idea to a solid plan. How would the social aspect of this be managed well? We became consistently pleased with the plans, while visiting other intentional communities. Big Wave was checking all of the boxes and encapsulating all we needed. It wasn’t long before I joined the Board and felt that at Big Wave we were proving ourselves year after year. 

 

As Big Wave has grown in support, however, to this day there are delays, as government red tape and ignorant opposition produce delays. The same people opposing Big Wave once opposed the Devil’s Slide tunnel and the Half Moon Bay Library. But we have been elated with the large support Big Wave has received.

 

Still, we wait. Still, Emmy lives at home, her growth stifled, her insomnia and mild anxiety a reality, but her determination is clear. She rides the bus to Special Olympics basketball. She honors her chores in the house. She will lovingly wait for the car to come home to unload the groceries. But the longing is there. 

 

She is a comfort to me when it is all too much. This loving young woman is waiting. Soon she will be independent and fulfilled as Big Wave clears the final hurdles. 

 

Overcoming diversity is something we all know. Some of us overcome it with pure struggle. And some of us overcome it with a swelling of love in our hearts. Emmy has been a gift to me and a gift to us all. She has given us layers of richness that we otherwise would have never known.

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What’s Happening at the Big Wave Farm?

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By Catherine St. Marie

By Catherine St. Marie

Catherine St. Marie helps direct volunteer activities on the Big Wave Farm.

What’s Happening at the Big Wave Farm?

Despite being unable to host our usual generous and hardworking volunteer teams from local universities, nonprofits, and corporations, our skeleton crew of essential workers has been working hard to prepare the land for a busy and productive summer! The farm team planted 50 tomato plants and more than 400 squash seeds out in the field. Other seeds that have been planted are carrot, beet, lettuce, beans, cucumbers, onions, and greens. Currently, our blueberry bushes are covered in ripening berries and our strawberry plants have many flowers that will turn to berries. Our artichoke plants have many green artichoke globes popping up above the silver foliage.  In addition, we are updating our irrigation capabilities on the property. Hopefully, with new irrigation parts, we will be able to boost our production. We anticipate a yummy and fruitful summer!

 

The chickens have a beautiful new chicken pen!  A big thanks to a family who donated 2 days of work to erect this sturdy structure. The chickens are excited to move into their new space! The chickens are happy and healthy. Egg production is at its peak with 2 and half dozen eggs collected daily. 

 

Our beekeepers have been buzzing with excitement!   The queens are taking care of business and laying eggs; the number of bees and hives have tripled because of their hard work. The worker bees are just as productive; they are already filling frames up with honey.

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Making Intentional Communities More Accessible

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By Jeff Peck

By Jeff Peck

Jeff Peck is the founder and CEO of Big Wave.

Making Intentional Communities More Accessible

In California alone, approximately 175,000 adults with special needs live with family members, and they are aging. When their caregivers pass away, where will these vulnerable adults live and who will take care of them? Part of the answer to this question should involve a quality of life answer.  At Big Wave we have an answer.

For the last twenty years, my business partner Steve and I have been committed to creating and implementing a model that provides affordable housing as well as quality of life for our local community members with special needs. This is a practical answer that has involved dozens of smart parents of adults with special needs in the Half Moon Bay area.

Most of the existing programs that are administered use state and federal grants to purchase and renovate property to be used as homes for individuals with special needs. While this works for some who have family and friends close by, it doesn’t work for the entire special needs community. As parents, we are aware that typical housing programs are filled with adults without a community, who feel isolated in their living space, and others yearn for a purpose.

I’ve seen frustrated families who have prayed for alternatives. We spent a long time listening to these families.

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Is any building project acceptable to our community?

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Is any building project acceptable to our community?

Big Wave mentioned in the Half Moon Bay Review.

In an Op Ed, Steven Hyman writes about his 40-year history living on the Mid-Coast and the challenges of building important projects. Check out the article here.

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