I’m 23 years old and had never been to the ocean. My first time ever experiencing it was nothing like I expected. I stood alongside hundreds of inspirational families while they shared what would prove to be some of the most touching moments of their lives — and mine. Seeing these beautiful children, parents, sisters, and brothers in their element getting to do what they love brought me to a place that I could only compare to heaven on earth. There is nothing greater or more fulfilling than having experienced this type of unconditional love and support right in front of my awe-filled eyes.
My name is Russ, and I’ve been happily employed by Double Good for just short of a year. Working in production isn’t easy, I’ll tell you that much, but it’s well worth it when I see the joy that we are determined to create. We are a company that is not only dedicated to making the best quality kick-ass popcorn you’ve ever tasted, but helping a whole lot of deserving people along the way. Upon purchasing our popcorn online, half of every dollar is donated to our Double Good Kids Foundation, which levels the playing field for kids with special needs, giving them opportunities to do what they love. Fundraising with us leaves you with half of your sales to keep and put toward whatever you may need to improve your organization. We’ve helped kids raise millions of dollars for uniforms, sports equipment, transportation, and simply the chance to be a part of the things they once didn’t feel included in.
The culture of Double Good is nothing like you could imagine. I walk into work every day knowing that I will spend the day with people who are the embodiment of love. We take the time to build relationships and challenge each other out of love and respect, and it shows. I’ve received more hugs, praise, kindness, and appreciation here in the last year than I have my entire life leading up to this. Because this company has the best intentions and the workers have the biggest hearts, the world is becoming a better place with our help.
Thanks to my Double Good family, I was given the opportunity to attend this year’s Surfers Healing camp at Wrightsville Beach, NC. Over 200 families of children with autism lined up for their chance to witness their loved ones get out on the water, learn how to surf, and experience their ‘one perfect day’ on the beach. This day is nothing short of magical because these kids are given an opportunity that they never knew was possible.
After a day and a half of flight cancellations, terrible airport food, and overwhelming anxiety, arriving at Wrightsville Beach was one of the most eye-opening and life-changing experiences I could have wished for. Stepping foot on that beach was like stepping into a different universe. Professional surfers and volunteers were filled with a sense of undying compassion that shocked me and warmed my entire being. Patience is a virtue, and I saw that virtue come to life.
I was instantly greeted by Matthew, who I had heard of prior to the event. Matthew and his family loved Double Good and our mission so much that they actually visited us at the factory to see us in action and express their appreciation. Since then, Matthew has been writing us at Double Good, sending pictures, questions, countdowns, and kind words on a frequent basis.
The first letter we received from Matthew stuck to me like super glue. No matter that I had no idea who he was and what his family had been through, I felt a deep connection and found my arms covered in goosebumps hearing Matthew’s story. Hearing all about his small successes and huge hopes made me extremely emotional. I have always tried my best to make those around me feel comfortable, accepted, and confident. Everyone deserves to feel those things no matter who they are, and it was my goal to ensure that by the end of camp, Matthew would feel each and every one of those emotions fully.
Little did I know that by trying to provide Matthew and his family with their ‘one perfect day,’ they would provide me with my own. Matthew and I, as my coworker observed, were two peas in a pod. We walked the beach with blistering feet for hours, just to talk about ingrown toenails and James Dean (surprisingly quite interesting). We jumped into a salty ocean full of waves just to get our glasses knocked off repeatedly and fill our pockets with sand. Neither of us could swim but we sure could laugh. We went out for ice cream in the middle of the night just to exchange energy and tell stories about the Bolanders’ lives. We spent far too many minutes baking in the sun talking about our feelings and why people are the way they are. Although I didn’t have answers to every mastermind question Matthew threw at me, I learned a lot about understanding.
Understanding doesn’t just come from similar experiences; understanding truly comes through listening. Listening to Matthew sort through his thoughts like a bank teller sorting through foreign currency… It showed me that we are all the same. We are all chaotic and we are all curious. We all want answers to the questions that we’ve been asking for years. We all can feel lonely and unaccepted some of the time (for some, it is most). But we are also all capable of love and kindness no matter what the situation is. I went to North Carolina to offer myself to a great cause, and I came back home to Chicago with a bigger heart than I could carry. Being part of someone’s perfect day, even if it’s just one child out of hundreds, makes me feel like a superhero. I feel accomplished and fulfilled, and I feel like I have a purpose here at Double Good.
On my wrist is a bracelet that Matthew and his family gave to me. I look at it and am constantly reminded that there are so many deserving people out there who do not have all the blessings and opportunities we do. Why then, do we hold on to these blessings and opportunities instead of sharing them? We are so rich, whether it be in money or spirits. If we were to stop and share our blessings with those around us, we could level the playing field for all alike, just like the Double Good Kids Foundation does. It doesn’t take a lot to change the world, just good intentions and big hearts. We have both of those here at Double Good, and I hope that one day I can say that this world is a better place thanks to us.
This year’s Wrightsville Beach Surfers Healing camp was the single most amazing and mesmerizing event I have ever taken part in. Thank you to everyone involved for accepting me into your Surfers Healing family. You are all the most wonderful people who are changing lives one smile, one child at a time. I hope to be back next year with more of myself to offer, and I know there will be even more magic to witness. That’s truly a double good.
If you would like to support Surfers Healing, you can use code SURFER when you order popcorn, and 50% of your purchase will go toward helping them continue to provide these incredible camps free to kids with autism.