As a pro surfer, one wakes up in the morning with epic waves and world travel awaiting. As a hospital-bound child battling disease or disability, one’s eyes open to a vastly different prospect for the day. That’s why O’Neill athletes Cory Lopez and Sage Erickson made an effort to make it more. The surfers visited the Children’s Hospital of Orange County on June 16th to give the kids something to look forward to as they battled to recover from childhood illnesses.
When Lopez and Erickson heard about the mission to visit the oncology unit and share their friendship and all sorts of shwag, they both eagerly responded, “Let’s do this!”
The two arrived at the hospital with the O’Neill pit crew and Fuel TV in tow. Lopez and Erickson showered the kids with posters, hats, and stickers, making an instant impact and brightening the children’s faces. A few identified themselves as surfers and were especially excited to meet the pros. “We put surfing back on their minds. They wanted to get healthy so they could get back out there,” said Lopez.
Nick, a five-year-old from San Clemente, shyly told them how much he loved the photo of Lopez getting barreled in Tahiti. Erickson listened to another child recount his own adventures at the beach and on his boogie board.
“I had never seen anything like that in person. It felt good to see the kids smiling and being happy, but it was also really sad. It makes you so grateful for your health and your family’s health,” said Lopez.
After weaving through the hospital and spreading smiles, they eventually ended up in the new physical rehab center where they met a boy with back problems. As athletes who have dealt with injuries, they could really relate with the kids facing physical difficul-ties, and they swapped stories with them.
After spending several hours with their new friends, Lopez and Erickson said their goodbyes. Their mission complete, the pros walked away knowing they had brought at least temporary happiness to kids facing daily struggles and, in some cases, a fight to live.
When reflecting back on the experience, Lopez said, “I felt like we did a good job. The kids were stoked, and it put a smile on their faces and gave them something to look at life a little differently, like what you can do out there.”