Arriving at beautiful Hanalei Bay on the island of Kauai, 10 wish kids from all across the country can hardly contain their excitement – they are about to meet their idol, Bethany Hamilton!
Adelynn, Taelyn, Erin, Kaitlyn, Madison, Emma, Kendall, Zinnia, Emily, and Marissa are girls who all battle life-threatening medical conditions. Though each of them have a different story, they all share similar experiences. They can relate to what it’s like to have stayed days and nights at the hospital, enduring countless pokes and prods while daydreaming about being somewhere other than the doctor’s office. They share similar battles, but they also share the same dream – to meet and surf with their inspiration, pro surfer Bethany Hamilton!
Bethany's incredible story of resilience resonates with wish kids across the world. On Halloween morning of 2003, the young surfer was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark. Surviving the ordeal, Bethany lost her left arm. But it was only one month later that she got back in the water and continued pursuing her surfing dreams, becoming a professional surfer in 2007. Her story, first written in an autobiography, turned into a major motion picture, “Soul Surfer,” released in 2011.
“Bethany is the inspiration of my life ... Her story has inspired me to go on and fight. I’m going through a lot like she did and we have our faith to keep us strong,” said wish kid Madison when asked why she wished to meet Bethany.
Madison wasn’t the only one who was inspired by Bethany - all 10 girls looked to Bethany’s strength and positivity during struggles with their own health – she gave them hope to continue to fight.
And this wish wasn’t just a meet and greet with a celebrity, it was a week-long surf camp with Bethany, her family, a number of other pro surfers and Make-A-Wish Hawaii Staff. The families were in for a week of fun on the beautiful Garden Isle for the 2nd annual Surf Camp with Bethany Hamilton!
After getting settled in beach houses along Hanalei Bay, the families ate dinner together and star gazed on the lawn – and it didn’t take long for the kids to warm up to each other.
"Within 10 minutes of meeting another Wish Kid, Adelyn came up to me and said 'I just met my best friend,' Wish Dad Tim shared with staff. "I asked her what her name was, and she said 'I don't know but she's my best friend'!"
Day 2 was all about the beach! From surfing with Bethany – as well as her coach Russell Lewis and other professional surfers – to making sand castles and eating sweet and delicious shave ice, the families got to experience a typical day at the beach in Hawaii. Soon after, Bethany spent one-on-one time with each of the wish kids, laughing and talking story about everything from surfing to what it’s like to live in Hawaii. To end the long day on a relaxing note, the families got together and watched the movie “Soul Surfer” under the stars with popcorn and good company.
"The movie Soul Surfer and learning about Bethany's life got us through six months of chemotherapy and treatment," wish mom Erika shared. "And now to see her in person, catching waves alongside my daughter - it is more than words can describe”.
Day 3 was even more exciting! In addition to surfing with Bethany in Hanalei Bay, the families also “tubed the ditch” down Kauai’s irrigation tunnels with Kauai Backcountry Adventure. A traditional Hawaiian Luau was held that evening and surf awards were passed out to every wish kid.
The families enjoyed one more full day of free activities and then it was time for a farewell breakfast. Goodbye was harder than anyone expected; In just one week, many of the children and their families made life-long friendships and created inspirational memories to draw strength and hope from.
“My favorite part was meeting all of the incredible families, the incredible staff and (recounting) how much fun we’ve had together,” said Emily’s mom, Denise. “And, that we have all these new friends!”
Special Thanks: Rip Curl, Hurley, DaKine, Ki - ele, Kanile'a Ukuleles, Fortress Eyewear, Scott Hawaii, Project Aloha, Local Motion Hawaii, Pualani Honolulu, GoPole, Brice Yamashita, Ivivva Honolulu, HiSky, Global Village, Bubba’s Burgers, Roxy, Hanalei Surf Co-Backdoor, Kauai Nut Roasters, Snorkel Bob’s, Hanalei Trading Company, Happy Haleiwa, Kauai Back Country Adventures, Hanalei Land Company, Hawaii Life Property Management, Mike Coots, Darcy, Jackie & Jill Fiero, Noah Hamilton, Rochelle Ballard, Dianne Reynolds, Madi Marie photography, Keani Estrella, Gina Pope, Nage Melamed, Keala Kennelly, Kala Alexander, Moses Paskowitz, Sarah Hill, Kaimi Kaheholani, Joel Guy, Russell Lewis, Kalani Vierra, Evan Valiere, Hamilton Family, Friends of Bethany, Kurt Leong, Koral McCarthy, Allison Ohama KORE Hawaii, Julian Miller, Hawaiian Airlines, Moses Hamilton, Nikola Rodriguez, Mary Mair, Miss Hawaii – Stephanie Steuri, Kaimi Kaheholani, Hanalei Canoe Club, Hanalei Fire Department, Pualani Hanalei.