A young boy on holidays in Donegal has had the adventure of a lifetime, thanks to the generosity and understanding of a local surf instructor.
James Carlin from Dunmurray in Belfast will be six next month and he faces challenges in every aspect of his life due to physical and educational needs. But his family are immensely grateful that despite this, James Garvey of Rossnowlagh Surf School was more than happy to take little James out on a surfboard.
The fun didn’t stop there for young James. Having got a good sense of the child’s comfort level in the water, Mr Garvey then brought him right out through the waves to see the dolphins, and even helped the young boy to a standing position on the board as they surfed back to shore.
For James’ parents Eamonn from Castlederg and Orla from Armagh, it was incredibly emotional.
“James had such a big smile on his face,” said Dad Eamonn Carlin. “The instructor was amazing with our son. Credit to a man like that. He is a true gentleman.”
As the young boy was enjoying his unexpected adventure, his uncle Kieran Carlin was on hand to video and photograph the experience.
“We have been able to share it with the whole family,” said Eamonn Carlin. “They are all in tears. There might be a heatwave but there will be no water shortage with the amount of tears that we have shed between us.
“When James came back in, I said to the instructor, ‘You know how to make a grown man cry.'
"It was so emotional to see our son do something that we never thought he would be able to do.”
Mr and Mrs Carlin have found that there are limits to the everyday activities open to their son, especially as he is getting bigger and needs to be carried.
“It is difficult to find things for a child like our son,” said Mr Carlin.
“80% of things in play parks are inaccessible. For us to be on holidays and find something for our son to do, something that he enjoyed so much, that is amazing.
“We want to get the message out there to other parents that this is available to their child. James Garvey has a passion for working with children like our James, and it was clear to see from the smile on his face that he enjoyed it as much as our son did.
“He was very generous to take James on a one-to-one basis when he could have taken out a group. We are very grateful.”
Mr Carlin explained how the instructor had met the family on the beach and very quickly gained an understanding of young James.
“Normally they start with lessons on the beach but James has learning disabilities and just wanted to get into the water,” he said. “When he sees water he just wants in. The instructor realised he wanted straight to the water.
“It was unbelievable what he did. He started in shallow water. We would have been happy with that, but he was just checking how James was with the water. He took him out through the bigger waves to see the dolphins.
“Then when he lifted him up on the board, James had the biggest smile on his face. He was so excited.
“To see our son up on the board, it was fantastic.”
James has a younger brother, 18-month-old Daniel, who shares his sibling’s passion for all things water-related, and who also greatly enjoyed his trip to the Donegal seaside.
“They are great buddies,” said Mr Carlin.
James' Godfather Kieran Carlin who still lives in Donegal is very proud of his nephew’s determination, and of his brother and sister-in-law for all they do for their son.
He said: “They were told not long after his birth that he may never sit, crawl or walk and to see this, and that he has defied all the medics of course with the help of his wonderful parents brought a tear to my eye.
“To watch the surf instructor James Garvey from Rossnowlagh Surf School place him on the board and paddle toward the dolphins offshore was nerve wracking. But our James was in very safe hands.
“The smile on his face said it all, a smile that melted the hearts of those that were there to witness it.
“A huge thank you to James Garvey from Rossnowlagh Surf School. Thank you for making the experience the most special experience ever for our wee James.”
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