Beach-loving teenager Josh Laforteza touched the sea for the first time in five years today after the community raised the money to buy him a $6500 beach wheelchair.
The Tauranga teen was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, microcephaly (smallness of the head) and severe developmental delay when he was about four months old.
He always loved visiting the beach but, as he got older and bigger, Josh's parents Kaye Narciso Laforteza and Peter Laforteza were unable to get him down.
The family had stopped driving by the beach as Josh would start rocking his wheelchair to show he wanted to get to the sand.
This prompted Josh's doctor, emergency department specialist Suzanne Moran, to set up a Givealittle page in June to help buy Josh a special wheelchair with off-road tyres.
Today, Josh's family, carers and donors gathered at Mount Main Beach to see the chair hit the sand for the first time.
He was wheeled down to the water where he and Mr Laforteza got their feet wet in the waves.
"It's all worth it for this," Mr Laforteza said.
Mrs Narciso Laforteza said she was overwhelmed to see her son enjoying the ocean again.
"I can't believe it. It's a life changer, we can do so many things now."
The family were planning on going to the Coromandel Peninsula this weekend, and already had Josh's wetsuit ready.
Dr Moran said getting Josh into the water had been "quite emotional".
"Just seeing how excited he is, reaching down to touch the sea, it's not something he's experienced in a long time."Bayfair centre manager Steve Ellingford helped Mr Laforteza prepare the wheelchair and said it was neat to see Josh so happy.
Josh's aunt Khristine Narciso, who was visiting from the Philippines, said she was excited to see her nephew get down to the sand.
"We all grew up being by the beach, Kaye just naturally loves the water. I think she just wanted to let Josh feel it too."
In total, $6500 was raised for the wheelchair. The Givealittle page generated $2102, Bayfair Shopping Centre donated a further $2000 and the remainder was donated by Legacy Trust.
- Josh's wheelchair is a Hippocamp Beach and All Terrain model from the United States.
- It weighs 17kg and folds down into a transport bag.
- It has removable low pressure balloon wheels which roll on the sand.
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