When seven year old Lauren saw the movie Soul Surfer, about a 13 year-old competitive surfer who loses her arm in a shark attack, she could not have anticipated how it would shape the following year of her life.
The movie tells the true story of Bethany Hamilton, who overcame the loss of her arm, wrote a book about it at 14, and went on to become a professional surfer. After being diagnosed with liver disease and vasculitis, Lauren “instantly identified with the story behind Bethany’s tragedy, and admired her bravery” say her parents. She was “ecstatic” when she learned she would be granted a wish, and knew exactly what she wanted: to have boogie boarding lessons with Bethany, her inspiration.
Because Lauren’s course of treatment requires taking prednisone, her body went through some dramatic physical changes. Suddenly, classmates and children from throughout her school were asking her why her face looked like a chipmunk. But Lauren showed remarkable resilience, and identified with Bethany, who had also been treated differently after losing her arm. “Lauren over the past year has become very tough and brave, and it is inspiring” say her parents. Facing her classmates’ questions and stares, she decided to make a poster about her medical “adventure” as she describes it, and presented it to them and her principal. According to her parents, being given a wish “is something that makes her feel special” and they tell her it’s a reward for her bravery. “Our hope is to make Lauren feel empowered and strong, and we believe Make-A-Wish is reinforcing this message.”
Last month, Lauren flew to Hawaii to meet Bethany. Lauren got up on her surf board on the first try and rode the wave all the way in to shore! Because both Bethany’s coach and her dad provided Lauren with the surfing lesson, she was able to spend more time with her idol, and went home with two signed boogie boards. One is to keep, and one is to donate to the school that she loves. And now these same classmates will see how her medical “adventure” and the feelings it inspired led to a wish come true.