Hi everyone, Aaron’s Aunt Manda here. You know that smile my sister was looking for yesterday? Well, today left everyone beaming from ear to ear. Here’s a story of how a team of good-hearted surfers (and a bit of determination) created a magical day for Aaron.
Everyone knows Aaron is a superhero, but did you also know that he’s part-fish? It’s true. The water is Aaron’s second home. Summer is his favorite time of year, and if there’s a pool or beach anywhere near him, he’s in it swimming and diving into the waves. Last summer, my sister bought Aaron a skimboard to use at the beach. This kid was a natural at it, riding along the water’s edge like a pro. He told us that this summer, he wanted to ride a real surfboard. He was so determined, that my sister even signed him up for lessons with Skudin Surf Camp. All winter long, Aaron had been looking forward to his first lesson. Then, cancer struck. We learned that as part of his treatments, Aaron would need to have a port in his body to administer the chemotherapy, which starts next week. That port cannot get wet under any circumstances. This meant no swimming, and certainly no surfing. My sister’s heart was broken having to tell her son that he wouldn’t be able to do the one thing he was looking forward to all year. We knew that if Aaron was ever going to get the chance to surf this year, it had to be this weekend. That’s when the magic of social media and the incredible generosity of a group of surfers stepped in.
I posted on Facebook Thursday night that our family was looking for a wetsuit thick enough to wear in the New York waters this time of year so that Aaron could complete his bucket list and go surfing for the first time. The status was shared dozens of times and reached hundreds of people, including our very kind family friend Brent and the awesome Tommy Grimes, head of Island Industries, a custom watercraft manufacturer. It proved to be a difficult task to find the type of suit (which included boots, gloves and a headpiece), that would be needed for the cold water. Usually it’s only the pros who ride when the water is still this frigid, so there are very few children’s sizes available. Tommy and Aaron’s Aunt Kimmy spent the entire day Friday calling every surf shop in New York looking for the right suit – and just as we were all about to throw in the towel, they found one! Aunt Kimmy drove two hours to Far Rockaway to get it this morning from Break Water Surf Co., who generously loaned Aaron the suit.
Not only did Tommy help find the suit, but he and the whole Island Industries team, including Christian Noyes, Ricky McClain, Mike Boyce and Andrew Maloney, took Aaron out for a free lesson at Lido Beach, gave him a board to use and spent the whole afternoon giving him the ride of his life. Some of them even left their day jobs to spend the afternoon teaching Aaron how to “hang 10.” Brent was kind enough to take out his GoPro into the freezing water and taped the big event for us, while his daughter Olivia took photos from the beach.
This was such a special moment for Aaron. He was pretty nervous at first, but the guys put him at ease and made him feel comfortable out on the waves. Mother Nature was very kind to us too – sunny skies, 60-degrees and perfect wave conditions. When Aaron and the guys came onto the beach about a half hour in, I thought Aaron was going to say he was wiped, but he got right back out there for round two, even kneeling on the board and riding out the waves on his own. He was so proud of himself as we cheered him on from the beach.
When they came back onto the sand, Ricky told us that they had one more surprise for Aaron. A surprise? What else could we possibly ask for? Well, back at our cars, the guys handed Aaron a brand new surfer backpack, filled with shirts, a hat, notebook, stickers and more. One of the best parts was when Ricky handed Aaron a trophy. His face lit up. “I’m only six and I already have a trophy!” he said with a giant smile. He held onto his trophy with so much pride as we rode back into town for lunch. We really can’t thank Tommy, Ricky, Chris, Mike, Andrew and Brent enough. Not only did they make Aaron’s wish come true and help complete his bucket list, but they showed so much genuine interest in seeing him happy, and they are just as pumped as we are to see him kick cancer’s butt, the way he did out on those waves today.
Never underestimate the kindness of strangers, or give up on a dream. Surf’s up!
If you’re in the market for a surfboard, or other surf equipment, please check out Island Industries. As you can tell from above, these guys are truly great at making people happy. Here’s where to find them: https://www.facebook.com/islandsurfco.
For those wondering what happened to Aaron’s lessons set for this summer, Skudin Surf Camp has already offered Aaron a scholarship to return when he’s cancer-free. Thank you! To check out the surf camp, visit http://skudinsurf.com/.