Sometimes I have to remind myself that I really am living the dream. Aside from all of the "things" that I have and wonderful people in my life, above all, I am healthy. We generally take that for granted. While I've always had an idea of what cystic fibrosis was, I never really understood the extent what it means to live with the disease.
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease of mucus and sweat glands, affecting the lungs and digestive system. This disease causes the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs, leading to life-threatening lung infections, and it also obstructs the pancreas, stopping natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food.
This disease affects about 30,000 people in the U.S. and 70,000 people worldwide. In the 1950's, children diagnosed with cystic fibrosis rarely lived to make it to elementary school. Today, people can expect to live in the 30's, 40's and beyond.
I had the chance first hand to get a clearer understanding of CF yesterday while chatting with a group of kids who suffer from this disease. I also had the honor of meeting some siblings who also live with this reality and become super responsible little people earlier than planned, as a result. Inspiring is a little bit of an under statement.
One little sister (who could not be more than 5 years old) explained to me with great pride how she helps her older sister Leslie who suffers from CF by reminding her to take her medication everyday and helps mom get it all ready daily, no matter what.
By the way, this isn't going to be about my getting schooled on life with CF. In fact, the group of kids I met yesterday flocked to the beach to forget their disease for one day and simply be regular kids. A total of fifteen patients from The Los Angeles Children's Hospital signed up to experience one perfect day of summer, by signing up for surf lessons with the crew from the Quiksilver and Roxy Surf Camp in Santa Monica.
Quiksilver and Roxy Surf Camps along with the Quiksilver Foundation partnered with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Mauli Ola Foundation to raise money and awareness for cystic fibrosis, a fatal, genetic disease. This day was very special because it was exclusive to children with cystic Fibrosis.
Here's some "Wow! I never knew that" information: Often seen as a path to physical and spiritual well-being, surfing has recently also been linked to prolonging the lifespan and quality of life for people with cystic fibrosis. Doctors determined that inhaling saltwater mist has a powerful effect on rehydrating the lining of the lungs and allowing cystic fibrosis patients to more easily eliminate bacteria-contaminated mucus. This discovery led researchers to develop a hypertonic saline solution, which when inhaled recreates the effect of a typical "surf session," and is now used by cystic fibrosis patients around the world.
One of the participants, Leslie -- who wasn't more than 13 years old, blurted out upon arrival, "I woke up at 6 am today because I was sooooo excited, I've always wanted to learn how to surf, today I'm going to learn finally!" and she did.
The recipe for this epic summer day of giving back? Oh, let's see, 15 colored foam surf boards, 15 instructors, allergen free Green Cupcakes, sunscreen, water, wet suits and to top it off some of the world's top professional surfers; Reef McIntosh, Strider, Lisa Anderson and Kala Alexander. I'm going to have to say that Reef's student who was about seven years old, might give Lisa a run for her money, she was a natural!
With the warmth, encouragement and guidance of the pros, most of the kids stood up and rode waves into shore. What followed were exuberant outbursts, big splashes, tearful parents and huge smiles all around.
Look, let's face it, Quiksilver is a corporate giant in their industry and in truth, they probably don't really need to extend themselves out to so many causes, but they do, and quite a bit. It's just who they are.
They're like the really hot girl at school who is friends with everyone and nice, too. Quiksilver plays with everyone all across the board: from civic and environmental to healthcare and education causes. They give back to The Surfrider Foundation, Keep A Breast, Surfers Healing, and EPIC (Everyday People Initiating Change) and these are just a handful of the causes I am aware of. They really make it happen, and do so world wide, year-round. I actually want them to hire me as an intern at their Foundation so I can get a graduate degree in giving back and maybe even kick up my surf skills while doing so!
Yesterday, I experienced first hand, when they reach out, they do it right, with spirit, soul and some serious team effort. I'm just glad to see more corporations taking a moment to connect with a cause they feel is authentic to their brand and make some goodness happen, even if it's for one sweet, summer day.
And in case you were wondering, the camp is not a one hit wonder. During July and August, Quiksilver and Roxy Surf Camps will be hosting a series of single-day surf camps around the country for children with cystic fibrosis. The camps are also be open to the public and will donate 100% of the proceeds from paying campers to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Anyone can sign up for surf camp. And mom, dads, not only is this an larger-than-life way to celebrate summer, but a cool opportunity for your kids meet a few of these inspiring children too. I learned a lot about courage and attitude yesterday
It's not everyday you get to see treatment in progress. I have read all the articles about this saline solution and how it rehydrates the lining and all the pros of the "saltwater" breakthrough treatment, and I hoped it really did do all those things and much more. I reached out to my friend Dr. Bernard Votteri, Director of Pulmonary Services and Rehabilitation at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City to confirm this whole saline treatment concept, and in fact he did: yep, all true stuff! Even better, he added, is the sense of empowerment the kids get by getting out there with each other and what it can do for their minds too. I say, let's celebrate this treatment and get kids splashing!
By the end of the day, I have to admit, I forgot they had CF, they were just kids being kids, living the dream of summer, sunshine, surf, sand and smiles as big as the side of the world. It really was a perfect, summer day.
Yes, I know, it's Monday, but that's just five days until Saturday.
For more information on dates and locations of surf camps, visit www.quiksilvercamps.com.