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Bethany Hamilton inspires family (video)

By Camille Doty
June 14, 2012 at 1:14 a.m.
Updated June 15, 2012 at 1:15 a.m.

Bethany Hamilton made a big splash during her first visit to Victoria.

The professional surfer was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark while surfing near Hawaiian shores when she was 13. She lost 60 percent of her blood, endured several surgeries and lost her left arm.

Instead of shying away from the water, Hamilton went with the waves and got back on the board three weeks after her accident.

"Surfing with one arm is the new normal for me," she said. "I'm like a mermaid. I just go in the water and do my thing."

And for Ella Jeson, having one hand is all she knows. She lost her right hand after an IV cut off her circulation when she was just one week old.

"We were very saddened and scared for her," said Aaron Jeson, Ella's father. The family enlisted the help of loved ones to pray for their first born.

Christy Jeson, Ella's mother, said her only daughter was born beating the odds. She was born three months premature and weighed 14 ounces.

Now the 3-year-old miracle child loves to laugh, watch "Dora the Explorer" and jump on trampolines.

"This is the life she's adapted to so well. She does things in her own way," said Jeson.

Hamilton, a 22-year-old Kauai, Hawaii-native, went on to win her first national surfing title in 2005. Her inspirational story touched lives around the world.

She wrote an autobiography titled "Soul Surfer" in 2004 that was later turned into a major motion picture seven years later.

The professional surfer has been featured in programs such as the "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "Good Morning America," and "20/20." Her faith gives her strength to endure.

"God has taken my life as a way to reach the youth, but not just youth, old people too," she said jokingly.

Hamilton traveled throughout the Crossroads all day Thursday.

She dedicated a home in the morning, answered questions during a Victoria Country Club luncheon and later gave a special presentation at Faith Family Church.

Board members from the Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity worked for months to get the Soul Surfer to the area because her story of determination applies to the people the organization helps.

"Our families face challenges every day to pursue their dreams of home ownership. Every time she (Hamilton) gets on that surfboard, she's pursuing her dream." said Cynthia Staley, Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity's executive director.

The champion boarder has been without a left arm for nine years and doesn't use a prosthetic. "This is my new normal," she said.

The Jesons were moved by Hamilton's story. Little Ella may be too young to fully appreciate the experience, but her mother said she will make sure her daughter knew it happened.

"I took lots of pictures and will tell her all about it," said Christy Jeson.

The Jesons had a chance to meet the ESPY Best Comeback Athlete. Jeson wanted to know how to protect her daughter from stares and reactions.

"You can't stop what other people do," Hamilton responded. "She (Ella) has to love herself."



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