Surfing a ‘Wish’ to Hawaii, Hamilton


Wednesday on the 6 p.m. ET SportsCenter, the fourth My Wish feature of 2011 airs.

As she does in the video outtake above, Kendall Curnuck, 8, plies the waves off the Hawaiian island of Kauai as surfer Bethany Hamilton watches.

Kendall is fighting a battle with acute lymphatic leukemia.

Kendall wanted to meet Hamilton, who in 2003 lost her left arm to a shark attack but returned to the water a month later.

Hamilton’s story was depicted in the film Soul Surfer, one of Kendall’s favorite movies.

ESPN producer Miriam Greenfield, working with Hamilton and the Make A Wish Foundation, helped make Kendall’s desire to meet Hamilton happen.

Time and travel helped make this My Wish assignment somewhat unique.

Kendall learned that she would get to meet Hamilton on June 30. Greenfield and My Wish series host Chris Connelly visited the Curnuck home in Rockville, N.Y. for the “reveal.”

On July 2, Kendall’s family and Greenfield took separate flights from East Coast airports to reunite in Hawaii.

On July 3 on Waikiki Beach in Oahu, Kendall not only met Hamilton but also AnnaSophia Robb, the actress who portrayed Hamilton in Soul Surfer. The trio rode a fire truck in a Honolulu Fourth of July parade and attended a screening of Soul Surfer. Kendall was presented with the first DVD printing of the film that was in theatres this spring.


On July 5, Hamilton was giving Kendall her first surf lesson.

In the time since, Greenfield has been working on a script and editing the feature that will debut on SportsCenter.

For Greenfield, this is her fourth My Wish assignment. The Ithaca College grad has also worked with NBA star Chris Paul and NFL standouts LaDainian Tomlinson and Aaron Rodgers on these productions.

A My Wish assignment is unique in many ways, she said.

“You have to check with the family if they’re willing to be on TV, when they can travel, if they can travel. Is the child healthy enough to travel?” said Greenfield, who celebrates her 16th year at ESPN on July 24.

“You have to coordinate with Make A Wish, the athlete’s [and sometimes team’s] PR people, to come up with a date and time.

“It’s a lot of phone calls and a lot of e-mails. Bethany has done this sort of thing before. Her brother [Noah] has coordinated a lot of her appearances. He’s had a good relationship with people in the community.”

For Greenfield, who likes to spend some time outside of the editing booth rock climbing, there are great rewards working on these assignments.

Greenfield is used to tackling tough assignments.

“When the kids tell you this is the best day of their lives, it’s still really meaningful,” Greenfield said.

For Coordinating Producer Valerie Gordon, the four-part series featuring athletes Hamilton, Landon Donovan, Tim Tebow and the Minnesota Twins represents another satisfying effort.

“We begin working on the My Wish series about 6-9 months in advance, working with the Make-a-Wish Foundation to gather sports-themed wishes that may be appropriate for the series,” Gordon said.

“Features are typically shot between 2 weeks to 3 months in advance of the series depending on when the athlete and wish recipient can get together.

“The buildup to the series’ premiere is always exciting — it’s very rewarding to see the pieces come together in the edit room after all the careful planning the producers do to make them happen.”

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