AJ Lindner is a superhero.
He can't fly or see through walls. He can't lift a bus with his bare hands. Rather, the 6-year-old from Bay Shore has the power of inspiration.
After AJ made a seemingly simple request to go surfing before he begins cancer treatment, his family and friends came together in a race against time to make his dream come true and inspire hope within the people who helped him.
Like every superhero, AJ is now face to face with an arch nemesis: choroid plexus carcinoma.
AJ was diagnosed three weeks ago with this Kryptonite of a cancer, a form of brain tumor doctors say just 29 people have been diagnosed with in medical history.
On Friday, AJ is scheduled to receive his first round of aggressive chemotherapy to battle the tumor.
"AJ has to have five rounds of chemotherapy and be in recovery after each of them, and then go through surgery to remove part of the tumor," his mother Sarah Lindner said. "He will probably be going through this for a year or more."
"We didn't have time to process it, but this was the kind of thing that can't wait," Sarah said. "He doesn't have a choice. He has to do this to make it through."
To top it off, the chemo is administered through a port that must stay in AJ's body for the entirety of the treatment and cannot get wet. This dashed the avid swimmer's summer goal of learning how to surf, plans his mother said he was excitedly anticipating after the harsh winter.
But instead of admitting defeat, AJ and his family decided to summon help from a few friends who faithfully leaped to his rescue.
"I knew that if he didn't go surfing now, it would knock his spirits down," Sarah said. "It was obvious that if he was going to cross anything off his bucket list, this was it."
Amanda Lindner, AJ's aunt and a former Patch editor, took to Facebook last Thursday and posted a status asking for help finding a wetsuit strong enough to protect him against the frigid Atlantic waters of April. The Facebook status was shared dozens of times and eventually reached Tommy Grimes.
Grimes, the owner of Island Industries, a Massapequa-based manufacturer of surf gear, raced around Long Island in search of the super suit.
"I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off," said Grimes, who also lives in Massapequa. "It's hard to find a child-size suit made for winter temperatures and it was a time sensitive situation. I started going a little crazy trying to find this damn suit, calling store after store to find one."
Grimes struck gold at his last stop, Breakwater Surf Co. in Rockaway, where he reached the owner just before closing time Friday night and unearthed a suit.
"This wasn't just about the suit," he said. "This was AJ's last chance to do something he's always wanted to do before going through chemo. The business side took a back seat to humanity."
The next morning, AJ, his family, and Grimes set off for Lido Beach for his first surfing lesson.
Grimes even summoned a "Justice League" - AJ's own brand of superhero team. One member, Ricky McClain brought a bag full of surfing prizes and a trophy. Another, Andrew Maloney, recorded the entire day and produced a video for a blog the family keeps. Christian Noyes, Mike Boyce, and Brent Hertz joined AJ in the water and put his mind at ease. The men took AJ in and made him "one of the guys," putting his mind at ease as he nervously practiced his first moves.
Within a few minutes of rocking in the waves, however, AJ bounded onto his board and caught wave after wave with unrelenting energy. The weather was impossibly perfect, the sun impeccably bright. As the superhero zoomed in and out of the waves, he was cheered by the ones who made it all possible.
"They are the most amazing people and I owe them the world," Sarah said. "What they gave me and what they gave AJ are what is going to give that extra push to get him through this."
AJ walked away Saturday with surfing expertise, a trophy that will sit at his bedside in the hospital, and most importantly, a smile that will shine through the long battle ahead.
Sarah said that after AJ recovers he plans to return for more surfing lessons with his new friends, who said they will have a personalized surfboard waiting for him.
Superheroes have a tendency to do that: fight on until the fight is done.