A Dream Come True

WAILUA — Josh Iloreta, who recently celebrated his 18th birthday, wants to move out and be on his own by the time he is 20 years old, Kaua‘i Fire Capt. Steven Doi said.

He has also aspired to climb the Sleeping Giant mountain on the Eastside. Thanks to a group of volunteers, family members and friends, he checked this one off his list Sunday.

At less than 5 feet tall and tipping the scale at just under 100 pounds, Josh could only dream of accomplishing this feat due to the limitations imposed by his cerebral palsy.

The neurological disorder has Josh confined to a bed or a special wheelchair, Doi said in a letter to Kaua‘i Fire Department volunteers.

The fire captain said he learned about Josh on Dec. 21 while driving home with his daughters, Julie and Chelsea, who were talking about Holly Iloreta, Josh’s sister.

Holly, a classmate with Julie, spoke of Josh’s dream of someday climbing a mountain.

“She said every time they drive by the Sleeping Giant mountain, her brother looks up, and although he cannot speak, she knows what’s in his mind: ‘If I could only see the view from the top,’” Doi said in his letter.

That conversation prompted Doi into action, his mind wondering, “What if?”

“I told Julie that our department has a stokes litter with a wheel, and if I could get a ‘bunch’ of fire fighters together, perhaps we can make Josh’s dream come somewhat true,” Doi said, tears welling up in his eyes at the thought.

“Although realistically he probably will never be able to walk up the trail, we could carry him up. This is not about us, but about Josh.”

Doi secured the approval to use the equipment from the Kaua‘i Fire Department, and on Sunday 20 to 30 volunteer fire fighters and staff from the department showed up along with Josh, his family, relatives and friends.

“This is not a department activity,” Doi said. “As such, we don’t have any chiefs here. Everyone is here for one purpose — to help Josh. We’re all the same.”

Doi said in addition to the volunteers, the Hawai‘i Fire Fighters Association approved getting sandwiches and some food for a light lunch following the ascent.

Although he could not utter a word, Josh was excited. His arms waved and flailed in the brisk morning air as his family pickup pulled up to the waiting group of volunteers and friends.

With his mother and Holly helping to calm him and ease the teenager’s apprehension over being strapped in the Stokes litter, Josh got additional help from one of the fire volunteers who attends the same church as he does.

Working in silence, the fire volunteers had Josh ready to go, the teenager’s hands making contact with the lead carriers and music from a portable stereo adding spice to the nippy night air which battled against the morning sun peeping over Sleeping Giant.

Nounou Mountain is more commonly referred to as Sleeping Giant because of the silhouetted shape of the range. Nounou Trail climbs roughly 1,000 feet through forest over the course of a couple miles, offering a spectacular vantage of the ocean, Wailua River and Mt. Wai‘ale‘ale on a clear day.

Doi said meeting Josh has opened his heart and mind.

“I’m grateful that my family is blessed with some normality and not bedridden or disabled,” he said. “Although my daughters have attributed all of my ‘white hairs,’ I love them dearly.”

He expressed his greatest appreciation to the volunteers who came out to help Josh fulfill one of his dreams.

“We’re not done yet,” Doi said. “After this, we’ll probably get him to surf out in Hanalei.”

As the group made its way up the Sleeping Giant, forming a procession behind the lead group of fire fighters moving the Stokes litter, Josh’s mom said, “This is really a dream come true.”

Cerebral palsy refers to any one of a number of neurological disorders which appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Web site.

Although cerebral palsy affects muscle movement, it is not caused by problems in the muscles or nerves. It is caused by abnormalities in parts of the brain which control muscle movements.

The majority of children with cerebral palsy are born with it, although it may not be detected until months, or years, later. There is no cure, but treatment will often improve a child’s capabilities, the Web site states.

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