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Ian O’Gorman Story

By   /  May 28, 2024  /  1 Comment


Vista, CA – TR Robertson with special contribution by Ian O’Gorman. The Bald Eagles Story and Their 30 year Celebration and Fundraiser Photos supplied by Ian O’Gorman

This is a story of friendship and dedication. Thirty years ago, a young Ian O’Gorman, age 12, went through a life altering experience that he discovered he didn’t have to face alone. Ian’s story is expressed in an article below where he discusses his battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, surgery and chemotherapy and the dedication and support 13 of his classmates and his teacher would provide for him. Thirteen of his classmates and his teacher would shave their heads to support and encourage Ian in his fight, calling themselves The Bald Eagles. Ian’s story is also one of triumph as he lives today with his wife (Sandy) and two sons (Lochlan – 11, and Gavin – 9) in San Clemente. Ian bodysurfs, surfs, skis, camps with his family and helps with his sons’ Little League team. He is the Director of Sales and Channel Marketing for Level, a tech start-up company specializing in products like the Invisible Smart lock for homes.

Included in the article is a recent picture from the fundraiser held at Mother Earth in Vista to raise funds in support of Victory Junction supporting children battling cancer, illness and disability. Ian’s cousin is Kamraon Khannakhjavani, one of the founders of Mother Earth.  Also pictured are photos of Ian’s classmates from 30 years ago, including their teacher, Jim Alter, who passed away from cancer in 2021.

Ian and Bald Eagle Friends at Mother Earth Fundraiser in March
– L-R – Gabe Cornejo, Ian O’Gorman, Jeremy Gable, Heather Wallace, Cheyne O’Gorman, Chris Chatham, Carson Smith, Scott Sebelius, Danielle Wallace.

Here is Ian’s story in his own words:

“March 2024 marked 30 years since the The Bald Eagles of Lake Elementary School first took flight.

Taking a trip back to 1994. There was no YouTube, no check-ins, push notifications or text messages. There weren’t even DVDs. People saw movies in theaters. They watched TV shows as they aired. For the current news and events, you would watch your local news on TV, listen on the radio or read about in a newspaper or magazine. 

I grew up in a close-knit family and have a younger brother and sister. We lived near Rancho Buena Vista High School. I was your typical Southern California boy, enjoying basketball, baseball, surfing, swimming and school. In January 1994, we went on a Wave Runner trip to Mission Bay and the day after I experienced my first symptoms, throwing up multiple times that day. I ended up testing positive for parasite. With some antibiotics, we thought the symptoms would be gone in a week. My symptoms persisted into February, forced to leave 5th grade rocket show and pony league baseball. At this point, I was throwing up every couple of days and the doctors were unsure of the cause. I went from 110 pounds down to 85 pounds. At the end of February, the doctors ordered an Upper GI test where they discovered a blockage in my small intestine. They admitted me into the hospital and booked exploratory surgery for the following morning to investigate the cause of the blockage.

The Bald Eagles were formed in March 1994 when I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of ten. After undergoing major surgery to remove a malignant tumor the size of an orange from my small intestine, I found out I would need to undergo chemotherapy. I worried about losing my hair and going back to school with a bald head. I feared being teased and ostracized by my friends because I looked different. My friends and family reassured me that everything would be okay when they visited over my three-week recovery in the hospital. 

On my first day back to school, I noticed a sign-up sheet taped to the front door of our classroom labeled “shave your head for Ian”. Thirteen of my classmates and family members, including my 5th grade teacher, signed up to shave their heads at our local barber shop in Vista. From that day forward, we were known as The Bald Eagles. Their act of kindness, support and compassion helped save my life and touched the lives of many more around the world. We received global news coverage with our story being featured in People Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Survivors Soul, Readers Digest, Good Morning America, and Thrivers, Montel Williams – A Dozen Ways to Sunday.

The Bald Eagles were flying again last month, Sunday, April 14th, for a 30-year celebration and fundraiser at Mother Earth Vista Tap Room in Vista, CA (just a couple miles away from the barber shop where it all started). The event featured live music, food truck from Urbn Pizza, free raffle prizes and a silent auction. Proceeds went to Victory Junction, supporting children battling cancer, illness and disability. The event brought in over 500 people including many of the original Bald Eagles, friends, family and the local community. 

We are proud to report that we exceeded our fundraising goal and continue to see donations.



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1 Comment

  1. Jerry and Judy McDonald says:

    The Ian O’Gorman and the Bald Eagle story article was great! A truly inspiring story

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