Overcoming The Odds
After six years as an expert EOD Technician in the military, Aaron Hale became blind the moment an unseen IED exploded in his face in Afghanistan in December of 2011. In the years that followed, Aaron rehabilitated himself to an extent most sighted people would envy – running marathons, climbing mountains, and even solo white water kayaking. In fact, it was the sharing of these very endeavors over social media that sparked the interest of long-time family friend McKayla who, despite living nearly 4,000 miles away, began having phone conversations with Aaron for four or five hours a day. Eventually, in July of 2015, McKayla came to visit Aaron at his home on the coast of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida for a one-week vacation. “We had such a great time together,” McKayla says.
Just one month later, Aaron, who had been complaining of a headache, was rushed to the emergency room, the doctors soon discovering that he had contracted a rare and dangerous bought of bacterial meningitis, causing him to lose consciousness for days on end, eventually emerging from his comatose state with painful headaches, crippling vertigo, and the devastating realization that his hearing was now gone.
McKayla, now at his side and with no other way to communicate, began a method where she would draw words into the palm of his hand, one single letter at a time. "The road to recovery was slow, and I had no idea how serious it was until we realized Aaron lost his hearing," McKayla says. Having told her work originally that she would be right back, McKayla made the heavy decision to leave her job, move to Aaron’s home in Florida, and stay at his side. "Looking back on it, it was one of the hardest things I've ever done." she says through tears.
The doctors presented Aaron with the option of cochlear implants, a promising solution for regaining his hearing, but not without a lengthy wait of several months, a journey that would require multiple surgeries. “I just knew it was going to be a really long road,” McKayla says. Waiting for his implants, and with nothing else to focus on from his isolating darkness, Aaron began to look forward to his favorite upcoming holiday, Thanksgiving. Always one to host the holiday at his home, he started planning a lengthy menu, and a guest list to match. "And I started cooking," Aaron says.
"And it gave me that distraction to help me take the focus off the pain that was going on, physical and otherwise. I had something to look forward to." When the evening finally arrived, Aaron was overjoyed at the amount of loved ones who came to his dinner table.
But it was one unlikely offering – Aaron’s handcrafted fudge – that caught the attention of the crowd. It was shortly after that dinner, when friends and family began to ask if they could have more, that Aaron knew he had caught onto something special, a purpose that not only made him feel significant but one that also brought joy to others.
A Business Was Born
Thus E.O.D. Fudge was born, (the letters standing for Extra Ordinary Delights), the name not only serving as a nod to the years Aaron spent as an EOD Tech in the military but to the perfectionism with which he approached that former position. "I want to be the best at what I do," Aaron states, "and E.O.D. Fudge to be the best fudge in the world."
Now with cochlear implants to help him hear, Aaron, along with the help of McKayla’s extensive experience in branding and business development, are setting their goals high, with plans in the works for a commercial kitchen and partnerships with big name distributors. "It wasn’t until we started making fudge that I really saw him light up," McKayla says. "Once we started getting orders, he was excited to be in the kitchen with a mission to accomplish and a product to give to others."
E.O.D. Fudge boasts some delectable flavors like the favorite "'Merican Pick Me Up" with toasted Georgia pecans, bourbon cream and American Pride Roasters Coffee, a take on the favorite Italian dessert Tiramisu. There's also "Straw Barry White" with organic dehydrated strawberries and strawberry Tequila Liqueur combined in white chocolate on top a semi-sweet layer. And if these recipes aren’t enough to persuade even a non-sweet tooth, a recently awarded grant from Nantucket-based non-profit Holidays For Heroes will help put E.O.D. Fudge on the map. Grateful for this helping hand, Aaron and McKayla are finding themselves on the fast track to success, an accomplishment Aaron hopes will not go unnoticed by his five-year-old son Cameron. "I want Cameron to see that his dad can still do anything," Aaron says. "I want him to be able to say, 'Look at my dad, see what he can do."