As an opening to Memorial Day weekend at Bass Lake Boat Rentals Sports Marina on Friday, Heroes’ Day Little & Big brought together disabled children and veterans, as well as the community at large, for a full day of water-filled fun.
Logan Sesto, 6, gave a wide grin before he was helped onto a kayak by volunteers. Diagnosed at five-months-old with transverse myelitis, a neurological condition which damages the spinal cord, Sesto was left unable to walk.
Did that bother him?
“Kayaking is the first thing I want to do,” Sesto said, practically ready to leap off his wheelchair. “I can’t wait to get out there. Everyone here is awesome.”
Justin Bond, CEO and founder of nonprofit veterans assistance group Our Heroes’ Dreams, said he couldn’t be happier for that kind of reaction while he watched children from the Valley Children’s Hospital Adaptive Sports program, like Sesto, and numerous veterans share laughter and stories.
“You have a lot of children that are experiencing the same things that keep veterans on the couch,” Bond said. “And it helps them to see veterans who are missing a leg too, or have cancer, things like that, so they can bond together. Then for veterans, it gives them new hope and gives them a mission. This is a total win win, and so many people have helped make this happen. I’m very thankful.”
Among the support was Valley Children’s Hospital and Our Heroes’ Dreams, Caring Veterans of America, Inc., American Legion Post 110, the American Legion Auxiliary, Yosemite High School, Madera County Sheriff’s Office, True Value Home Center, AJ Excavation, the Bass Lake Snowmobile Club, and Bass Lake Boat Rentals, the event’s host.
Tom Tuso, owner of the business, said the idea for such an event had been on his mind a long time.
“It’s very rewarding to be able to bring happiness to the face of all these kids, and the service men and women of our country,” Tuso said, knees deep in the water while he strapped life vests on children before an inner tube ride. “All of them absolutely deserve this.”
Everything was free for veterans and children thanks to donations, including time on kayaks, boats, inner tubes, a barbecue lunch, and even arts and crafts or face painting stations.
The public was also welcome, and the proceeds from any who purchased food or rental equipment went to Our Heroes’ Dreams and Valley Children’s Hospital.
The day began with an invocation, a presentation of the colors by members of the Yosemite High School Cadet Corps, a water-cannon salute from Cal Fire Bass Lake Station 14, and a rendition of the National Anthem.
Both Tuso and Bond, himself a disabled veteran, said the event will return next year.
Details: Bass Lake Boat Rentals, (559) 642-3200, Our Heroes’ Dreams, (844) 643-8387.