It Takes a Village

By Sally Smith-Weymouth
Photos by Howard 'Boots' McGhee Photography

Sept. 10, 2013—Santa Cruz is a unique community made up of smaller, even more unique communities. I am a member of the surfing community, where, when someone is in need, all they have to do is ask. This was the case of a surfer girl who lost it all but got it back in spades.

Back in late June my dear friend Laureen Shipley reached out to me. She said she had reached the depths of desperation and had nowhere else to turn, so she was turning to her community.

Laureen was recovering from breast cancer, and she was also recovering from having lost her job due to her illness. She had also lost her insurance and was faced with mounting medical bills. To top it all off, she had just found out that she now had to move by the end of July—in five short weeks. She was broke, tired and weak from all of her treatments and surgeries. She needed help.

Laureen's idea was to do a fundraiser for herself, and she knew I had experience putting on fundraising events. Once we discussed what needed to be done, Laureen set up an account on GoFundMe and built a Facebook event page, and I set about looking for venues and raffle prize donations.

A few days later, while waiting to talk with a local restaurant owner, panic started to set in. I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to pull together the people and resources needed in time. I was leaving in 17 days for a month's vacation. I knew we had to shift gears fast — a catered event with a band was not going to happen in two weeks time.

I called Laureen and we rethought our plan. "Let's just have a barbecue at the beach. We'll sell raffle tickets, ask for donations and ask people to bring a dish to share — make it like a big Pleasure Point family picnic. We decided that we would stage everything at the Dirt Farm on the bluff overlooking Inside Pleasures.

After we put out the call, people came out of the woodwork to donate prizes and offer their help with organizing and setting up. So many awesome prizes were donated that we changed our plan once again and decided to hold a silent auction and a raffle.

People donated flying lessons and sky-diving adventures; photography and hand-made jewelry. The response was phenomenal! In the meantime, on Laureen's GoFundMe page, the cash started pouring in. I was floored; Laureen was floored. Obviously she is well loved in our surfing village!

At noon on the day of the event, praying that all would go well, I pulled up and ran into our friend Wayne — our designated hot-dog griller. He told me to pull in next to his truck right across the street from the Dirt Farm — score! Within a few minutes another friend pulled up with a truck full of donated 10x10 tents, tables, and trash cans. Others soon showed up and we set about putting up the tents and tables, decorating them with aloha fabric and flowers, and organizing all the auction prizes.

Things pretty much went like this: We set up, people started throwing money at me, we ate, visited, watched the surf, surfed, won prizes, tore it down, and left everything just the way we found it. It was the fastest three-hour fundraising event ever! (I think I may have found a new career — Speed Fundraising!)

Everyone went home with smiles on their faces and love in their hearts! Reliving the day, as I write this, fills my heart with love and I say Mahalo Nui Loa to each and every person who contributed in any way to the event. That day was the most amazing of days!

To this day I still cannot believe how it all went down. In two weeks time, between the silent auction and the GoFundMe page, the Santa Cruz surfing community raised more than $10,000. A generous surfer girlfriend offered the extra room in her house so Laureen and her daughter would have somewhere to stay; bills were paid; and Laureen was able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Yesterday, as I paddled with Laureen along the shore from Privates to 38th Ave. and back, floating among the seabirds and harbor seals, dolphins and silvery anchovies, Laureen told me the day of the fundraiser was like a huge, bright, golden light in her life. Crowding out the darkness of despair and filling her with strength, love and hope.

She is a resilient and deserving woman, Laureen, facing life's most challenging wave with a duck dive and a punch through, her surfing ôhana paddling at her side cheering her on, watching her joyously glide along the face of the wave of her life.

Sally Smith-Weymouth is the owner of the legendary and newly reborn Paradise Surf, and resides in Santa Cruz, CA.
Visit the Paradise Surf Facebook Page.
And Follow ParadiseSurfSC on Twitter.

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