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Australian longboarding adventure

Australian longboarding adventure

Three JMU students who share a love of outdoor adventure are embarking on a journey to help children around the world with facial deformities.

Beginning Jan. 20, seniors James Keagy, Ryan Caruso and Hayden Hughes will spend two months longboarding in Australia to raise money for Operation Smile, a Virginia Beach-based nonprofit organization that performs cleft lip and cleft palate surgery and provides ongoing treatment for children in developing countries.

“It’s an easy surgery and costs only about $250,” said Caruso, who grew up in Chesapeake, Va., and in high school traveled to China with Operation Smile as part of an international student leadership conference. “In most developed countries, it’s probably not an issue. But in certain countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, it’s a big deal.”

For their longboarding adventure, the team chose Australia for the warm weather — it’s currently summer in the southern hemisphere — and the friendly people. Their journey will begin outside of Melbourne and follow the coastline more than 1,200 miles through Sydney to Brisbane. “It’s the most mountainous area of Australia, but also the most populated,” Keagy said.

The group should be up to the challenge. Keagy, a business management major, and Hughes, a sport and recreation management major, once kayaked more than 1,000 miles from southwest Virginia to the Gulf of Mexico. Hughes and Caruso, who has completed a kinesiology major and plans to enroll in the JMU nursing program next fall, have been rock climbing in the Joshua Tree National Park in California. And in the summer of 2013, Hughes biked across the country to raise money for cancer research.

“The goal is to have a good time, to put smiles on our faces, to put smiles on the faces of the people around us and, ultimately, the children.” — James Keagy, senior business management major

The trio have been longboarding together since mid-October and continued their training individually over the university’s winter break. They plan to travel lightly, packing only what they can carry on their backs, and will stop for food and supplies when necessary.

Caruso was able to convince family, friends and businesses in his hometown to contribute some funding, and the group has secured corporate sponsorships for some of their equipment. As a fundraiser, they also created a T-shirt with the American flag and the JMU logo that is available for sale in the JMU Bookstore. “A lot of people have been hesitant to give money to this point because they don’t think this is possible,” Caruso said, “but I think once we’re done, that’s when people will step up [with donations].”

“The goal is to have a good time, to put smiles on our faces, to put smiles on the faces of the people around us and, ultimately, the children,” Keagy said.

The JMU community can follow their adventure on Facebook and Twitter (@Longboard4smile), and on YouTube.


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Published: Friday, January 9, 2015

Last Updated: Monday, March 1, 2021

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