Ashlynn’s Hawaiian Countdown to Sun, Sand, and Warm Waters
Who doesn’t love counting down to something fun? “Five more sleeps until my Birthday!” “10 more minutes to New Year’s Eve!” 10-year old Ashlynn from Gray, Saskatchewan started her countdown at fifty-five. That was how many days she had left until her Sunshine Dream trip to Hawaii.
For Ashlynn, visiting Hawaii was more than a dream come true. The anticipation of spending a week swimming in the tropical waters helped her get through a summer-long recovery from surgery on her foot. Living with cerebral palsy, Ashlynn often encounters discomfort in her feet but as her mom says, “She never lets CP get in her way!”
Ashlynn chose Hawaii because it was a place where she could snorkel, see the sea turtles, and swim all day, feeling the freedom in her legs. “It would be nice to forget about my disability and this is the place to take my mind off it!” she writes.
Sharing her creativity and excitement on social media, Ashlynn posted a hand-drawn map of Canada’s western provinces leading to the Hawaiian Islands with numbered sea turtles counting down the days until her Hawaiian adventure.
When she first arrived to her hotel in Waikiki, Ashlynn was greeted with the final turtle from her countdown in the form of a stuffed animal gift from the hotel. It was a great start to her adventure and a dream fulfilled.
Hawaii allowed Ashlynn to complete everything on her dream list. The first stop was snorkeling. With her family in tow, she traveled to a local nature reserve to explore life below the warm blue waters. Ashlynn let her body lazily drift across the waves as colourful fish swam underneath her, swirling around the aquatic grasses. Her twin brotherTaylor, who also has CP, was able to use the beach wheelchair to explore the coast and lie in the water as the waves washed over him. They took hundreds of photos to capture these new memories.
Later that week, the girls in the family (Mom, Ashlynn, and her older sister Kierstyn) went on a dolphin swim. In the lagoon of a nearby resort, Ashlynn and a particular dolphin named Kolohe (his name means Rascal in English) became fast friends. Touching him felt very soft and he giggled when you tickled his belly. It was one of Ashlynn’s favourite moments from her Sunshine Dream experience.
A visit to Hawaii wouldn’t be complete without a nighttime Lu’au. It was a big highlight of the evening to learn about the history of the Islands and watch the dancers – so much so, that it inspired the girls to take hula lessons and Ashlynn’s sister to learn the ukulele. All of the pieces of her dream had come together.
On the way home from their trip, Ashlynn reported that “she enjoyed every bit of it. When we ask her what her favourite part is, she says "all of it!"
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