Iraq War veteran who co-founded a local surfing nonprofit on Folly Beach is a 2017 CNN Hero

November 2, 2017 GMT

An Iraq War veteran who co-founded a locally based nonprofit offering surf camps and therapy sessions to other veterans and their children was selected as one of the 2017 Top 10 CNN Heroes.

In May 2015, Andrew Manzi co-founded the Warrior Surf Foundation on Folly Beach with Tyler Crowder and started offering free lessons to veterans.

During CNN’s “New Day” Thursday, Anderson Cooper revealed the 10 honorees for the network’s annual tradition of recognizing everyday people who are changing the world.

Now in its 11th year, the Peabody and Emmy-Award winning campaign celebrates individuals who are making extraordinary contributions to help improve the lives of others.

In an Aug. 6, 2016, Post and Courier story, the then 31-year-old Manzi, who served in the Marines from 2003 to 2007, admitted he “got hurt a few times,” while serving in Iraq. He also said that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

In 2009, he joined some buddies to surf for the first time and fell in love with it.

Manzi recalled, “I was in a lot of physical and mental pain. When I went through the toughest times, surfing was the only thing that worked for me.”

He noted that most veterans who seek help are provided trauma therapy and pharmaceutical drugs. Manzi said he thinks the therapy could be helpful, but endorsed replacing the drugs with surfing.

After Manzi moved to Folly, he started working for Josh Wilson, owner of Charleston Surf Lessons. Manzi soon asked Wilson if he could start taking some veterans out for free lessons.

Manzi was joined by Tyler Crowder, who is now Warrior Surf’s chief operations officer. Crowder grew up surfing in North Carolina and served as an Army medic for a decade, including multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wilson recalls saying, “If we really want to do it, let’s create a game plan and do it right.”

Wilson says the program is relatively simple: “It consists of basically three things. First, we invite veterans to come out and surf. Second, they fill out a questionnaire. Third, if they want to, they can get therapy.”

Manzi will be among the 10 honorees featured in the 11th annual “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” airing live at 8 p.m. Dec. 17 from the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Voters can select the “CNN Hero of the Year” by voting for the Top 10 CNN Hero who inspires them the most.

Supporters can vote daily at CNNHeroes.com by logging in via email or Facebook, as well as on Facebook Messenger by messaging VOTE to the CNN Heroes Facebook page.

Viewers can vote up to 10 times a day, per method, every day through Dec. 12.

Each Top 10 CNN Hero will be awarded $10,000 and the “CNN Hero of the Year” will receive an additional $100,000.