Caleb Acosta was a normal, healthy teenager active in school and sports until this past July when he was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer.
Caleb, who lost the ability to move or feel his lower body just weeks after his diagnosis, was able to feel like a kid again on Wednesday thanks to a surfing dog named Ricochet.
Caleb, 15, surfed with Ricochet, a certified therapy dog who gained worldwide fame for his surfing skills, off the waters of California thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“It was life-changing,” Caleb’s mom, Cathy Acosta, told GoodMorningAmerica.com today as the family traveled home from San Diego. “He said he felt light. He felt free. He felt like he was normal again.”
Caleb first learned about Ricochet after his aunt, Cynthia Franco, showed him a video of the dog surfing with others with disabilities.
“He said, ‘I want to go surf with Ricochet,’” Franco said.
The Franco family — including Caleb’s dad and two younger brothers — flew to California on Saturday along with Cynthia Franco’s family who, “came along for the ride.”
The group visited Disneyland and the Hollywood Walk of Fame before driving to San Diego, where they met Ricochet and his owner, Judy Fridono, and the team of people who helped Caleb surf with the pup.
“There was a whole group of people who helped take Caleb out of the wheelchair, put him on the board, helped paddle him out and surf back to the shore,” Franco said. “Caleb said he felt like he had balance because the dog was able to balance his board.”
When the family returns to Florida today, it will be back to a regimen of chemotherapy and radiation treatments for Caleb, who is enrolled in a hospital homebound schooling program since he can no longer attend his regular school.
“Initially it was just a tumor and he had surgery to remove it and underwent radiation and chemotherapy,” Franco said of her son’s initial diagnosis in July. “A few weeks later it was found to have spread to his spine so he lost the ability to move or feel the lower part of his body and had another surgery in October to remove the tumor on his spine.”
“He’s in a wheelchair most of the time but his strength is improving and he can walk short distances with the assistance of a walker,” Franco said.
The family has created a Facebook page – PrayforCaleb — as a place for family, friends and strangers alike to send their support.
“We just want to bring people’s attention to his fight and keep the prayers coming,” Franco said.