CLEARWATER, Fla. - A Michigan man who received a terminal diagnosis has one final wish: To see the ocean one more time. His family – some of which in the Tampa Bay area – is now working to make his final wish a reality.
Timmy Jenks, Jr. has always been a warrior to his family. Around 8 years old, Timmy started losing his hearing, and he embraced the challenge by becoming fluent in sign language and staying active. His stepmother Sarah Jenks said he played sports like football, basketball, baseball and bowling. He even was in Boy Scouts.
At 23 years old, he got a cane for balance after he was diagnosed with cerebellar ataxia, a rare degenerative disease, along with an extreme case of scoliosis. Timmy's stepfather Fred Dye said he also had a walker and a wheelchair.
Timmy's cousin Andrea Dektas lives in Tampa, and a trip to the warm water of Clearwater Beach soothed his muscles and mind. Dekta said he got a tattoo when he visited, and he's always wanted to come back.
"We actually have a photo with him and I sitting on the beach with the waves crashing on us," said Timmy's father Tim Jenks.
At age 29, his condition has deteriorated, and his eyesight is failing. Doctors said it's terminal.
"He more or less said that he wanted to see the ocean again. And I said, Well, where do you want to go? He said, some place in Florida," said Timmy's mother Regina Dye.
Timmy's final wish is to see the Gulf one last time, to feel those healing waves, and get one more tattoo.
"Everyone's kind of focused on, how do we make that dream come true for him?" Dektas said. "We want this to just be seamless and magical."
His family is quickly working out logistics – how to fly, where to find an accessible van, hotel, a beach wheelchair and planning whatever else they can experience on wheels.
"Can we get him to a theme park? Can we get him to, you know, go through the boardwalk, and go downtown to the Clearwater Aquarium and all of the things?" Dektas said.
To grant this wish will be a final victory for a warrior who's conquered a lifetime of battles.
"Oh my God, it'll be incredible," Dektas said. "I think being able to get in a wheelchair, get to the sand, get into the water, I think for a couple of minutes, it'll just kind of make everything else fall into the background."
In the meantime, Timmy's family is working to raise money for the trip online.
They're also holding a spaghetti dinner benefit in Michigan next month.
For Timmy and anyone traveling to the Bay Area with special needs, there's a plethora of accessible accommodations and things to do. You can get more information at https://www.visittampabay.com/accessible-travel/.