by Kayla Fuller,
Neumann University, Senior Psychology Major, Spanish Minor (Women’s Soccer)
As individuals we all have an idol, someone who we look up to, someone who we would like to meet or someone who we just plain admire. We are inspired by our idols for specific reasons that relate to our personal lives. As adults, we all have idols, but we don’t quite find those values of our idols as meaningful as do children.
I had the privilege during the week of January 26th, 2014 to witness exactly how meaningful it is for children to confide in others who represent admirable qualities.
When he was nine years of age in May of 2011, my little cousin, Dominic, had been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which is a rare and aggressive type of cancer. At the age of nine, his main focus was no longer school, sports, or hanging out with his friends. His life had then consisted of a constant battle against cancer.
While he was in the ICU, one of the nurses recommended the movie Soul Surfer as a source of entertainment. Dominic got a hold of the disk and from that point on watched the film over and over again.
Soul Surfer is a film based on the true story of professional surfer Bethany Hamilton’s shark attack in Hawaii when she was just 13 years of age. Dominic felt as if he could relate to Bethany’s story, as if they had a special connection. He felt inspired by her story and that if she could go through a shark attack and still continue to surf, that he could “kick cancer’s butt” and continue on with a normal life, going to school, playing basketball, football, skateboarding, skim boarding, and surfing. Her story made Dominic realize that nothing is impossible if you just believe, and he did just that.
The Make A Wish Foundation reaches out to young children who are going through serious health conditions by giving them a chance to make a meaningful wish come true. Dominic’s wish was, of course, to meet and surf with Bethany Hamilton in Hawaii where she was born and raised.
It took about two years but they granted his wish in November of 2013 and set the dates for him to attend the Bethany Hamilton Surf Camp in January of 2014. His parents were of course included in the trip but he could also bring someone else, and I was asked to be that lucky someone else.
The Foundation flew us to Hawaii for five days and rented us out a beach house along the Hanalei Bay in Kauai, Hawaii. There were ten total families of wish children that all had the common wish of meeting Bethany Hamilton. The camp included two days of instructional surfing with professional surfers. The main instructor was Russell Lewis, who is Bethany Hamilton’s surf instructor. Bethany, Russell, the other professional surfers, and all of the Make a Wish staff were constantly around the kids whether it was in the water surfing, or on the beach building sandcastles.
The foundation had provided us with many different forms of entertainment and activities such as professional hula dancing shows, fire twirling acts, petting zoo presenters, professional sand castle building, and we even went on an underground cave tubing adventure. The kids were in awe of the constant activities, especially when it came to surfing with Bethany Hamilton.
The amazement that filled these children’s eyes was so warming and breathtaking to witness first-hand. Their dreams of meeting their idol were coming true.
Bethany is an amazing role model and constantly related the message that if you believe, you can achieve. Not only did they just meet her, they spent a whole week with Bethany and her family. All of these children are survivors of cancer. The strength that they hold within themselves is so inspiring, even to someone of my age at the college level. So much hardship that they have endured, yet so much joy that they display throughout their everyday lives. Their scars, along with their smiles, tell the story of it all.
I have always heard of the Make A Wish Foundation, but to witness ten children have their wishes granted first-hand was an honorable and incredible experience that I will hold close to my heart in my collection of memories. This trip has inspired me to want to get involved with the Make A Wish Foundation and help cancer surviving children to believe in the good that the world has to offer.