Surf 4 Hugs celebrates decade of helping children with serious illness

Published On: Aug 03 2013 05:41:00 PM HST

What began as a family lesson on community service has brought smiles to more than 500 Hawaii children diagnosed with serious illness.

HONOLULU -

What began as a family lesson in community service has, 10 years later, brought smiles to more than 500 children diagnosed with serious illness.

Surf 4 Hugs is celebrating not just a decade of hanging 10, but helping create lifetime memories.

Surf was up in Waikiki on Saturday.

So were the smiles.

On Kuhio Beach, children coping with serious illnesses got to enjoy being a kid for at least one day.

This was the first time on a surfboard for Alexis Perez, 6, who was diagnosed with brain cancer at age 2.

“We feel like she hasn’t really got a chance to enjoy her childhood. It feels like it was kind of robbed from us,” said her mother, Pauline Perez.

Two brain surgeries, three bone marrow transplants and three months of radiation later, she finally has a chance to get in the water. 

It's the fourth year at Surf 4 Hugs for Mia Agustin, 9, who this year, was getting the hang of it.

“It was really fun. I got to catch some waves by myself,” said Agustin.   

Agustin has a rare liver disease and is on the wait list for a liver transplant.

But she, like most keiki involved with Surf 4 Hugs, tackle the waves with the same courage they use to fight the diseases within them.

Dee and Brett Thomas created Surf 4 Hugs as a way to teach their two children the value of giving back.

But a decade and 500 smiling kids later, it's become much more.

“Nothing can describe that experience seeing a young child who never gets a chance to go to the water ride a wave,“said Dee Thomas. “It’s pure joy.”

The event grows each year, supported solely by donations and volunteers.

It's a milestone for HUGS, as well, the organization for whose families Surf 4 Hugs was created.

The local, non-profit, which supports families with children diagnosed with potentially fatal illness or disease, is celebrating 31 years helping Hawaii families.

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