The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 14 No. 24 - April 9, 2014


Wishes comes true in West Coast Surf Shop

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story


From left, Casey Coleman, Matt Bauer,
Julie Pecor and Max Marnie admire Matt’s
new surf board at the West Coast Surf Shop.


HOLMES BEACH – Sometimes wishes do come true.

Just ask 20-year-old Matthew Bauer, who after recovering from leukemia, was treated last Friday to a daylong Make-A-Wish shopping spree that began with a limo ride to the historic West Coast Surf Shop in Holmes Beach.

Accompanied by his mom, Julie Pecor, his friends, Casey Coleman and Max Marnie, and Make-A-Wish representatives Sarah Robbins and Russ Larsen, Bauer’s wish list included a brand new Al Merrick Average Joe 57 surfboard, the first new board he has ever owned.

“I’m shopping and healthy as can be with my friends. I’m stoked about my new board, my first new one,” he said.

Working with a total spending limit of approximately $3,000, Bauer browsed the West Coast Surf Shop inventory in search of board shorts, sunglasses, board leashes, fins, backpacks and much more.

Ronee Brady and her husband, Jim, own the 50-year-old shop and have known the Bradenton resident for much of his life.

“We’ve known Matt since he was in elementary school. He’s been one of the Island kids. We’ve watched him grow up through soccer and Community Center activities. My grandson played sports with him and, as you can see, he’s got lots of support,” she said.

“I’m just happy to be able to fill one of Matt’s wishes, and we’re all behind him whatever he needs. We’re one big family out here; we’re a community,” she added, noting that Bauer’s excursion was the first Make-A-Wish excursion to take place at the shop.

Bauer was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 16. Thanks to a 2009 bone marrow transplant from his sister, Whitney, he is now considered cured, although he will be subject to annual checkups for the rest of his life.

“This is a happy day; this is a good day; this is a celebration of life and he’s been waiting a long time for this,” Pecor said, as she watched her son’s dream come true.

Bauer, who turns 21 next week, spent four and a half months at the All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg during his recovery process. Bauer also spent time in Vermont with his dad, Hank, before returning to Bradenton.

As he shopped, Bauer explained what it felt like to be diagnosed with cancer at the age of 16.

“It was pretty crazy. They said, "Sorry, but you have leukemia," which is a form of cancer. At first I was like what’s that mean. The next day I started chemo and then I got my bone marrow transplant, and my sister was a perfect match for that.”

Trying to put the indescribable into words, Bauer said, “It’s definitely scary. I didn’t really ever think I was going to die, I just thought it was going to be a slow recovery until I was back running around, and everyone kept real positive vibes.

“When I was in the hospital, there were kids all around me that were really sick, so I just tried to stay positive. I had my friends, my mom, my sister and a girlfriend at the time, and they’re the reason I’m still moving. They kept me right and reinforced everything,” he said.

Battling a serious illness left an indelible mark on the young man’s approach to life.

“It’s fragile, and you should be careful what you do. I watch over everything now, from partying to what I eat. I try to stay healthy because you only get one life, so live it up,” Bauer said.

His friend Marnie added, “I’m glad to see him alive and kicking and back on the Island.”

Coleman said, “I’m so stoked, I couldn’t imagine one of my best buds being gone like that.”

After dining on chicken wings and nachos, Bauer and his friends hit The Compound, where he scored skateboard decks, skate trucks (wheels), bearings, shoes, pants, shirts, a Richard Nixon watch, a Volcom gift pack and a box of Lollicake Queen gourmet cake pops.

Summing up his thoughts on the day, Bauer said, “It was sweet. I’m super stoked that they do this for people and did this for me. I’m happy West Coast Surf Shop and The Compound let me do it because thanks to them, my wish came true.”

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