Well, it is with much emotion – love and joy, sadness and longing – that we share with you the story of one of our favorite people on the planet, Emily Yoakam. Emily and her awesome husband Brian are expecting very soon a little baby Yoakam, and we could not be more excited to have a new member of our ohana. On the flipside of that coin, the Yoakam three will be soon leaving our fair island, and to be honest we’re still in denial that we are losing such an AMAZING person that has been so very important to the growth of AccesSurf.

Without a doubt, there are NO words to describe how much Emily means to us. Trust us, we’ve been sitting here at the keyboard staring at the screen for sometime trying to think of something to say that could show how much we love her. So, best to hand it over to Emily and let her share her story:

A lot of the testimonials we get from AccesSurf volunteers and participants begin with “I came to an event one time and I was hooked –I’ve been coming back ever since”.  And mine is no different.  I attended my first event on April 4th, 2015. And for the past [almost] 3 years, I have been at every Day at the Beach except one.  My husband Brian has been around since that very first Saturday, as well. I still can’t believe I talked him into getting up at 5:30am on our day off to drive across the island and check out this volunteer opportunity I heard about. Without his incredible support I may not be here as the AccesSurf Administrator you know and love. And it’s actually his career in the Air Force that brought us out to Hawaii in the first place (kicking and screaming of course ;-P).

At our previous bases, I volunteered with various community and military organizations. But from that very first Day at the Beach, I could tell AccesSurf was different. It felt less like an organization and more like a community, and I knew almost instantly, this was a community I wanted to be a part of.  Volunteering at events turned into helping out behind the scenes. From fundraisers to canoe regattas, expos to Aloha United Way campaigns…“You need someone to man the AccesSurf booth at a fair? I’m in!” I was stoked to join the leadership committee in July and when Cara asked if I was interested in coming on as staff in December 2015, I didn’t have to think about it for very long. THIS is what I wanted to be doing with my time in Hawaii.

It’s hard to put into words what it’s like to attend an AccesSurf event; when I try I usually end up saying, “You just have to go”. But picture two to three hundred people coming together once a month to help grant wishes, conquer fears, reach goals, check off bucket lists, calm nerves, achieve dreams and simply share smiles and stories with one another. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

I will never forget the parents who wept on the shore as their usually non-verbal child shouted with joy on the water, the swimmer who came to AccesSurf to enter the ocean for the first time after an encounter with a shark left him badly injured, the service men and women who discovered they could not only regain mobility after being wounded or battling illness but they could stand up on a wave, or the husband who allowed us to grant his wife’s last wish of visiting the ocean one more time. This community’s positivity, acceptance, and eagerness to push the limits of what we’re told is possible will stay with me always.

It has been an honor to be a part of the countless life changing experiences at our Days at the Beach, Surf & Swim Clinics, Surf Competitions, and community engagement opportunities as well as witness the amazing growth behind the scenes in my short time on board. The last 4 years in Hawaii really have been some of the best years of our lives. It’s where, before we became a family of 3, we joined an ‘ohana of many who made our time in Hawaii truly special. You taught us to believe in an An Ocean of Possibilities. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for being a huge part of this meaningful chapter in our lives.

We weren’t actually kicking and screaming when we packed our bags and moved to this remarkable island in the middle of the ocean. But we will be kicking, screaming, crying, and plotting our return when the time comes for us to move back to the mainland this summer.  It won’t be easy saying goodbye to so many wonderful participants and volunteers who became friends, and the friends we now call family. So we’ll simply say we love you all and A hui hou.

Emily, Brian, and Baby Yoakam

Thanks for the sweet video, Breana!