Four months ago, doctors removed a golf ball-sized tumor from Daisy Love Merrick's belly. This was the third. It was also the smallest. One was the size of a Nerf football. Merrick, who's 8 years old, has been battling kidney cancer for nearly three years.
Daisy, granddaughter to celebrated shaper Al Merrick, has endured six surgeries, 22 rounds of chemotherapy, and two courses of brutal radiation. She has doctors in both the U.S. and Israel and she still faces more chemo and a possible stem cell transplant. The Merrick family is looking at roughly $500,000 in medical bills -- even with insurance coverage.
In June, Al Merrick met with Dean Plumlee, the national director of Christian Surfers US, who suggested a paddle-a-thon to raise money for Daisy's medical treatments.
"The Thursday before our luncheon, I was praying for Daisy and had a couple thoughts," Plumlee says. "It seemed like the surfing world wanted to help the Merrick family and just needed someone to step forward and provide a way. I also noticed that, at that time, there didn't seem to be a tax-deductible way for people to give. Christian Surfers is a registered 501(c)(3), hence all gifts to CS are tax-deductible. But what kind of event could we do that anyone could get involved in? Then I remembered the guys in (Wollongong) Australia. Every year, they facilitate a "Paddle-A-Thon" to raise money to fight poverty. It's become more than a CS event. They simply facilitate it."
Plumlee explains that the event hopes to provide both emotional and financial assistance to Daisy and her family. Essentially, the paddle-a-thon asks groups to paddle a pre-set distance to raise money and awareness. "Because we want anyone to be able to engage, we're encouraging it to be a short distance -- not a marathon. The actual distance varies at each location," he said.
There has been an outpouring of support from the surf community, and on the morning of September 1 Daisy's defenders will paddle out in at least 33 locations from Hawaii to Minnesota, Florida to Indonesia.
CJ Hobgood, who will lead a paddle in Avon, N.C. said, "If you have ever touched a surfboard or have surfed, you owe a great deal to Al and his immediate family. I'm stoked to be able to get our surf family together to help one of our own. I've followed Daisy's story for a while and am touched by it."