The Love of a Bohemian Mama: Playing for a Cause
When I was a teenager, most days, you could find me either on the tennis court or on 1st street at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. You could find me on the tennis court because that was my sport; but you could find me at 1st street because of the boys. Yes, I was one of "those;" a boy crazy teenager. But lucky for me, I was friends with a group of boys that would spend their days surfing the jetty at 1st street. My girlfriends and I would ride miles on our beach cruisers to the end of the boardwalk, to soak in the rays and the scenery. I have never been so tan, so in shape, and so enamored with the surf scene.
One of my friends was a boy named Chris Thompson. He was the life of the party down on 1st street with his noticeably low riding board shorts and his shaggy, white blond hair. He barely ever had shoes on and when he was not in the water, you watched your back; because "Thumper," as we liked to call him, was always up to something.
Everyone knew Chris and his popular, polar opposite, brother Josh. You see, Josh was what some would call, "a golden child." He was an amazing surfer, he was incredibly kind, and he was the crush of every girl on the beach. But they shared a brotherly bond; and it was heart warming to see how much Chris looked up to his older brother, Josh.
In 2006, news broke that send shock waves through the entire Virginia Beach community. Josh was diagnosed with ALS, also known as The Lou Gehrig's disease. He was recently married, had a baby on the way, and was at the height of his career. Josh went from riding the waves to riding what would be the toughest wave of his life. And with a lack of drug access, treatment, or even a cure, his family became determined to help Josh in his fight.
In 2008, The JT Walk was created to help raise money for stem cell research, expanded drug access, and ALS patient services. But what happened next, no one expected. More than 7,000 people gathered in support, over $1 million dollars was raised, and consequentially, The 1st Annual JT Walk became a record breaking fundraiser for ALS.
But it didn't stop there. Josh's Dad, Bruce, a prominent hotel developer in Virginia Beach, proposed an idea to build a 100% handicapped accessible oceanfront park. A family that once spent their time bonding on the beach, was unable to have efficient access because Josh was now bound to a wheelchair.
His family became committed to a vision that would allow his son, and others, to enjoy the beach again.
On May 22, 2010 The JT Grommet Island Beach Park and Playground became the first of its' kind in America. 15,000 square feet of ramps and decking provide an area for soft play, surf themed sculptures, accessible play equipment, cushion play surfaces, special beach wheelchairs, and so much more!
When we were in Virginia Beach, last week, one of our first stops was a visit to 1st street; to The JT Grommet Park. It was amazing! We all had such a wonderful time! But I couldn't help but take a moment to reflect on my life and how so much has changed; and I was reminded how truly valuable every moment is in your life, and to not to take anything for granted.
October 9th, 2011 will mark the 4th Annual JT Walk & Beach Party. Please join me in helping to support the ALS cause, the Grommet Park, and most importantly, a friend. You can visit JTWalk.org for more information.