For 13-year-old Jayden David, a trip to the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach is a treat. He loves to feel the wind in his hair and to pump his fists as he rolls down the boardwalk in a scooter driven by his father, Jason.
They’re familiar faces to Newport Beach police officers who patrol the peninsula, and the two recently got their own set of wheels thanks to an effort by the Newport and Huntington Beach police officers associations after they learned how Jayden’s excursions are helping to improve his health.
Jayden has a severe form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome, and Jason, 42, noticed that his son’s quality of life improved in the Newport Beach sun while visiting from Modesto three years ago.
“Whenever we’d take him there, he’d do really good,” Jason said.
Jayden, who can’t speak, was at one point having 1,000 seizures a day, according to his father. Dravet syndrome includes prolonged and frequent seizures and behavioral and developmental delays, among other symptoms. It has no known cure.
After years of researching his son’s condition, Jason thought that naturally occurring magnesium and negative ions in ocean air, coupled with Vitamin D, could have positive effects. He decided to make Jayden’s beach trips a priority.
“When the child is sick, the whole family is sick,” Jason said. “So when he is better, the whole family is better.”
In April 2018, Jayden and his mother, Katie, moved to Long Beach. Jason traveled between Modesto and Long Beach every other week until he moved to Huntington Beach in April this year. Jayden now splits time between Long Beach and Huntington.
Before transplanting to the coast, the longest Jayden had gone without a seizure was eight days, his father said. Recently he had gone 20 days without one, Jason said.
At one point, Jayden was on 22 medications a day, with little improvement in his condition, Jason said. Today, along with other changes, he takes less than a full dose of one medication a day.
On their first outing in Newport Beach, Jason rented a bike and put Jayden in a trailer he could tow. When Jayden grew out of it, they looked for other options and found a motorized three-wheeled scooter at a rental shop with a front-facing bench seat behind the driver where Jayden could sit while secured by a seat belt.
While basking by the ocean, Jayden could be seen laughing, dancing and smiling in the back of the scooter, his father said. He sometimes carried a laptop DVD player to watch recorded game shows.
Jason would pay $35 an hour as often as the pair could make it to the beach — sometimes four times a week for a one- to two-hour cruise on the peninsula. If Jayden’s condition deteriorated, they could go weeks between beach visits.
During an outing in June, Jason was approached by Newport Beach police officers who had received complaints of a speeding scooter.
“I guess people were complaining that I was driving too fast, but I was just having a good time with Jayden,” he said.
Officer Christine Maroney was patrolling with her partners when they caught up to the Davids at the rental shop.
Jason apologized for going too fast and they got to talking. While Jason was helping Jayden out of the scooter, the officers asked about Jayden’s condition.
When Maroney tried to give Jayden a sticker, “he gave her a hug and a [high] five and I think they melted for him,” Jason said.
“Our association donates so much money to different charities, we came up with the idea to donate a scooter to Jayden,” Maroney said. “We came back and started brainstorming how we could have a scooter made.”
The Newport officers approached the Huntington Beach Police Officers’ Assn., which agreed to share the cost of making a custom motorized scooter for the duo.
The Cyclist, a Costa Mesa bicycle shop that serves the bike units of 19 law enforcement agencies, including the Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa police departments, built the scooter for just under $3,000, donating the labor. The cost was split between the police associations.
With the help of the rental shop, the team got in touch with Jason and presented the gift Sept. 21 at the Cyclist.
“I was in shock,” Jason said. “It’s hard being a parent with a special-needs kid. Some people look at us weird or are not always understanding or nice. So to have someone be that kind, it meant a lot that someone cared.”
“He was in tears,” Maroney said. “That was kind of all why we did it.”
Jason said the new set of wheels will enable him and Jayden to go out more, including closer to Jason’s home in Huntington Beach.
“Jayden is an angel,” his dad said. “All he wants to do is play and be a kid. I want to give him the best quality of life while he’s here on Earth.”
When the Cyclist’s owner, John Marconi, got the call from a member of the Newport Beach Police Department with the proposal, he said, “I’m in, what do you want me to do?” He had met the family in his shop two years before while Jason was looking for a bike.
In three weeks, Marconi fitted the custom scooter, which features a front-facing rear bucket seat and large tires designed for golf carts.
The scooter retails for about $4,800 before the customization, Marconi said.
Seeing the scooter presented to Jason and Jayden, surrounded by members of the NBPD, brought tears to Marconi’s eyes. “It makes you feel good; it makes all of us feel good,” he said.
The Huntington Beach Police Officers’ Assn. was “honored to contribute to this worthy cause,” its president, Yasha Nikitin, said in an email. "We jumped at the opportunity to help.”
The Davids quickly took their new wheels for a ride, and Jayden “had a blast,” his father said.
They started at Jason’s Huntington Beach apartment near 15th Street and Pacific Coast Highway and rode to Newport Beach, making it all the way to Balboa Island via ferry before turning back, fearing the battery might run low, Jason said.
Jason said he stayed under the peninsula boardwalk speed limit of 8 mph, though the new scooter can clock up to 12 mph.
“He had so much fun. It’s a beautiful thing,” Jason said of the nearly two-hour outing. “It was one of the best days of our life.”