October 22, 2015

'Soul surfer' speaks at PossAbilities Sports Luncheon

Bethany Hamilton stayed after the PossAbilities Sports Luncheon to meet with fans and athletes, including PossAbilities members Greg Crouse (left), Andre Barbieri (center) and Zimri Solis.

Bethany Hamilton spoke to a crowd of approximately 280 people at the PossAbilities Sports Luncheon on Oct. 14 at Loma Linda University Health. 

Hamilton, 25, shared her personal story of triumph, challenge and “soul surfing” during the fundraising event, which brought in over $125,000 for PossAbilities. PossAbilities is a free community outreach program at Loma Linda University Health that offers disabled individuals who were born with or have suffered a permanent physical injury a sense of community and a healthy social network, as well as various resources and opportunities they might not otherwise have. 

On Oct. 31, 2003, Hamilton’s left arm was bitten off by a 14-foot tiger shark while she was surfing in Kauai. Although she initially thought her career was over, she returned to the water just over one month after the attack. She wrote the book “Soul Surfer” about her experience.

“I was overcome with feelings of triumph and joy,” she said, adding that she thought that maybe she’d be able to encourage others through her experience.

She continued, “Anyone can go through traumatic times, but my life is a testimony to others that we can overcome challenges in life.”

Hamilton’s words resonated with the crowd, especially those U.S. Paralympic Team hopefuls from PossAbilities on the Road to Rio. The four athletes vying for a spot on the 2016 Paralympic Team in Rio de Janeiro will directly benefit from the funds raised at the sports luncheon. They are:

  • Greg Crouse: Paracanoist
  • Andre Barbieri: Paratriathlete
  • Delmon Dunston: Paracyclist
  • Nicholas Gleissner: Paracyclist

Also benefiting from the fundraiser was Zimri Solis, a PossAbilities member who at age 10 was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis — a rare infection that causes the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord to become inflamed. To save his life, doctors had to amputate one of his legs and both hands. Now 33, Solis’ goal is to one day be a Paralympic triathlete.

During the luncheon, participants were encouraged to “dash for cash,” to raise funds for a new prosthetic leg Solis has needed for some time. With a goal of raising $5,000, attendees were excited to play and support Solis. Thanks to the generosity of the crowd, $16,000 was raised.

Also recognized during the event was adult trauma nurse coordinator Michael May, who has been a member of the Loma Linda University Health family since 1985. He was honored with the Humanitarian Award for his service and dedication to the healing of others.

“Through his spirit he shows love, through his kindness he shows compassion, and he is truly an earth angel,” said Cotie Williams, manager, community outreach & patient experience, Loma Linda University Medical Center East Campus.

For more information on PossAbilities and the Road to Rio program, visit TeamPossAbilities.org.