Before he was even a teenager, Jared Ravizza began working with people with disabilities. Now as an adult, through the Ravizza Global Initiative, he’s continuing that work, but has expanded its scope.
Ravizza has been coming seasonally to Martha’s Vineyard, Cotuit, and other areas on the Cape and Islands since he was a child. Growing up in Massachusetts, Ravizza learned to ski at an early age — a skill that became a passion and led to a professional career. Now, through his Initiative, Ravizza is sharing his passion for the mountains and the ocean.
Ravizza doesn’t see the Initiative as volunteering, but as a way of life. This lifestyle started when he was 12 years old on a mission trip to Alaska. It was there he did relief work and ran programs for children with disabilities in a community that had been hit hard by a storm.
“That’s where my call started to be cultivated,” he said. “I was inspired by that whole experience, and I took those dreams. I would sit by the ocean on the Vineyard and continue to be inspired. That turned into our work with people with disabilities, cancer, and other illnesses: exposing them to surfing and skiing and exercising,” Ravizza said.
Today, his initiative work is a resource for people with autism, disabilities, and illnesses. He works with adults and athletes, providing mentorship and exercise, among other things. Part of the philosophy of his work is to help people get connected back to nature.
“There’s something about nature and being able to experience that,” he said. “When someone has illness or disability, there is a lack of being outside in nature, having physical activity, and having that deep connection to life.”
Ravizza worked with one Vineyard man, whom he declined to name for privacy reasons, who had heart problems. The man had not exercised in 30 years, but Ravizza worked with him and eventually got him out walking the beach in Oak Bluffs with a weighted vest.
Part of Ravizza’s approach to helping people is to get them connected to nature. One of the best ways to do that on the Vineyard is to see the sun rise. “South Beach is an awesome walking beach, especially in the morning. We take a group and do weighted vest walks, sunrise walks. You have a vest, weights, and lifting while walking,” he said.
Enjoying nature also means being a responsible steward of the environment. Along with working with families and individuals, Ravizza organizes groups to keep beaches and mountains clean from trash. On the Vineyard he’s put groups together, both large and small, to pick up trash on the Island.
While Ravizza’s initiative reaches across the country, he wants people to know he is an available resource to anyone looking to help people to reach out to him through his website at jaredravizza.com. He’s on Martha’s Vineyard every summer.
“We spend a lot of time on the Vineyard, in Massachusetts, and I just want people to know the accessibility to me,” he said. “I also hope this story will inspire someone to start an initiative of their own … maybe you’re someone on the Vineyard and you want to start helping people,” he said. “For us, it’s not like a program. I look at it as a movement and lifestyle and an initiative we do to change people’s lives, to inspire people. It’s a lifelong connection, lifelong relationship, being there, being a mentor.”