All night I've been thinking about yesterday, not just the amazing turtles, but the Aloha spirit that permeates many of the locals here.Knowing we were coming to Hawaii, and having Blondie ask if she could take a surf lesson like her sisters, I found a group that claimed to do this with special needs kids. We emailed back and forth and in February they quoted me a price (I would have gladly paid) and said they would get back with me with the name of someone who would be available during the time we were here. This group gathers folks for a free day on the first Saturday of the month, but we just weren't going to be here on those dates. About a month ago another hemi family had a problem with enrolling their daughter into a cooking camp, and this made me remember to email again about Blondie's lesson, but I didn't get a response. So when we arrived I called and left a message. Then I emailed. After repeated attempts I pretty much gave up, which seemed to be okay with Blondie because she had been knocked down on the North Shore, and felt the power of the waves and the current, and was now a bit hesitant.
Yesterday though, while trying to squeeze every experience into the remaining days left, we stopped by a random place to see if they could take the older two girls. The guy, "Uncle Bryan" (Uncle and Auntie are terms of endearment and respect an older generation of loved ones or mentors) mentioned something about wounded warriors, and my ears picked up. What's that you say? Let me tell you about my pint-sized wounded warrior. He became very indignant as I mentioned that we couldn't get in touch with the other group, and were going to pay for her lesson. "No, NO. She's free. Come and sit." We went into a "soccer mom" type tent with a carpet on the sand where he spends a lot of his day running his business. "I was making this lei for my girl friend, but I'm giving it to your daughter." Come to find out, Uncle Bryan has coached some great surfers and was all over the pro circuit for awhile. He told us he had worked with Make A Wish, and the Wounded Warrior Project, and another group that escapes me at the moment. He spoke of one surfer who became paralyzed, and how he helped him figure out a way to enjoy surfing again. On the way out he gave Blondie his surf instructor hat.
Fast forward to Tuesday morning when we hurried out the door early to make the 45 minute drive to North Shore. The girls were set up with coaches and boards, and actually were surfing around the point from the turtles the previous day. First they all listened to directions on how to get up in the water, and then they practiced for a few times.
Cheesie working on her stance.
Then they all got out there and Zane Surratt rode with Blondie. He started her out by lying on the board and riding it in. After a couple of those he had her arching up with her one hand, then she started moving to her knees. When she felt up to it he somehow helped her to her feet by holding her waist, which really impressed us because she isn't able to really help too much in that department. Zane was lifting her up and balancing the board. Blondie was able to get up 3 times and was SO PROUD OF HERSELF. Brian and I were yelling from the shore. I have to share, that a lot of families like ours were thrilled to get the first pictures on facebook and I highly recommend this group if you have someone with special needs.
To be fair, it wasn't just Blondie that we were delighted with, our other girls did well too.
Big Al caught on quickly and thoroughly enjoyed herself. On one of her runs she cut her toe open, but she kept going and stuck it out.
T-Rex made it up too - FABULOUS. I was so glad that all 4 of the girls found success.
Here they all are waiting for their turn on a wave.
Hey Mom, look at me!
When we were finished we made sure to go find Uncle Bryan and thank him for the opportunity. I don't know that many people without a special needs family member can really understand how deeply thrilling it is to find someone who simply accepts our child as simply another kid who wants to surf. There are so many hemi families who are touched by what Uncle Bryan did for our family, and making it work when another group just couldn't or wouldn't. Our kids want to participate in things with their friends and family members without feeling judged, or different, and the happy tears in my eyes (and others who saw these pictures today) are from the sheer joy of seeing ALL of my kids succeed.
P.S. I'll try to update the rasmussen's blog eventually but give me until the weekend, or early next week because I'm sure we're going to be pooped.