Damon, from Kaneohe, struggles daily with progressive muscular dystrophy, a medical condition that made him eligible for a wish from Make-A-Wish Hawaii. When asked to decide what his heartfelt wish might be, Damon made a unique request for a beach-accessible wheelchair. With four siblings and a family who spends a lot of time at the beach, Damon wanted the ability to roll across the sand with more ease, something his standard wheelchair wouldn’t allow. But in addition to gaining easier access to Hawaii’s beautiful beaches – as a typical teenager – Damon wanted a wheelchair that looked cool, too!
“I think we can all remember what it’s like to be a teenager and to want to feel cool! Damon’s wish makes us smile because his wish is all about going to the beach in style!” said Make-A-Wish Hawaii President and CEO Siana Austin Hunt.
“But it also tugs at our hearts because for most of us in Hawaii, a trip to the beach is such a simple thing - but for kids like Damon who rely on a wheelchair, we are reminded that it is more complicated. For a Hawaii teenager, going to the beach is a way of life! Damon’s new wheelchair will make his beach experience so much more fun for him.”
Damon’s new “Exsteel De Bug” Beach wheelchair features large wheels perfect for sand and other tough terrain, with special rear suspension that provides stability over uneven ground. Make-A-Wish Hawaii received some added help from the team at 808 Speed Shop, who added some custom touches, decking out Damon’s new ride with upgraded, comfortable faux-leather upholstery complete with red stitching, running lights, and candy apple red fenders with silver “flames.” They even added an Apple iPod so that Damon could play music while on the beach.
After several months of planning and customizing, Damon’s wheelchair was ready just in time for National Believe Day - a day to celebrate the annual Macy’s Believe Campaign that starts in November and carries through Dec. 24. The campaign asks kids and adults to write a letter to Santa and drop it into special in-store letterboxes, or write it online at macys.com/believe. For each letter received, Macy’s will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. On National Believe Day, this pledge is doubled to $2 per letter and celebrations and wish gratings occur nationwide. Here in Hawaii, Damon’s wish unveiled - but he had no idea that it was coming!
“We worked very hard to keep this a surprise for Damon,” said Make-A-Wish Hawaii COO Amy Sterry. “Our wish granting team connected with his family and they brought Damon to Macy’s under the guise of a Christmas shopping trip. In reality, this day was all about Damon and his wish.”
Make-A-Wish Hawaii paired up with the world-renowned dance crew, Academy of Hype from Hypersquad For Life, to orchestrate an in-store flash mob dance performance, centered around Damon. Studio owner Josh Ulep visited the Make-A-Wish Hawaii office to choreograph and teach the routine to Make-A-Wish staffers in the months leading up to National Believe Day. Professional dancers from his studio volunteered their time to join the performance.
“In a way, it is like having our wish granted by being a part of this and being able to make Damon’s wish come true,” Ulep said.
The dance turned the heads of shoppers and passersby. Damon was front and center for the entire performance. As the dance ended, staff held up signs revealing that Damon’s wish was coming true. Hunt and Sterry then presented Damon with what first appeared as a large-sized Christmas box, designed by Wish Granting Volunteer Diane Pang. Once lifted, the box revealed Damon’s tricked out, beach-accessible wheelchair. Applause broke out as the community celebrated Damon’s wish.
Adding to the excitement of Damon’s wish, families whose kids’ wishes had previously been granted by Make-A-Wish Hawaii, as well as other supporters came out to drop off letters in support of Macy’s Believe. For more information on Macy’s Believe, go to macys.com/believe.
To see moments from Damon’s wish, as well as the other 50 wishes granted nationwide on National Believe Day, visit MacysBelieveTogether.com.