New Castle’s AJ Kirk: Yo-Yo Pro and A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children Patient Escort
The jokester, Team YoYoJam member and jack-of-all-tricks keeps a smile on the faces of patients and their parents, even through the toughest times.
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Kirk would compete at his first national competition a few months later, but it didn’t go as well as he would have liked.
“I did horribly,” Kirk says. “They randomly select the order and my division started nationals. I was the very first person to go. My yo-yo knotted on the second trick. I went all the way to California to blow it in nine-and-a-half seconds.”
But that didn’t deter Kirk. The following year, 2005, he finished in fifth place in his first World Championship appearance. In 2006, he climbed to third in his division.
Mitchell, who now owns Yo Yo Joe’s Toys & Fun in North Wilmington, says Kirk’s knack for entertaining is what sets him apart. Kirk, who ran the yo-yo club for a while and co-hosted an Internet radio show with Mitchell, is one of about 60 people on the shop’s Yo-Yo Wall of Fame, meaning he had to master a list of 25 tricks.
“AJ is a really good performer,” Mitchell says. “There are plenty of kids who are really good at yo-yoing. They have the technical side down, but they are staring straight at their yo-yo. AJ is having fun and his performance is increased by that.”
It didn’t take long for Kirk’s competitive flair and cheerful personality to catch the attention of Team YoYoJam’s scouts. After the 2005 World Championships, he was invited to join the YoYoJam team of champion players from all over the world. That’s impressive, considering it’s an invitation-only gig.
“He is in a very elite group,” Aaron says. “To be a part of our team is a little bit different than some other teams. We don’t just take players based on their yo-yo skills. We’re also really big on having players who are good role models and who give back to their community. AJ certainly fits that bill. He is fantastic with kids. He does a fabulous job of sharing his skill and his love of yo-yoing.”
Aaron notes Kirk’s work with the company’s apprentice team during the World Championships. Kirk also serves as a mentor to two younger yo-yoers, including one he met at yo-yo club who happens to be a patient at the hospital.
“AJ is just a very peaceful soul,” she says. “He makes people happy and joyful. The kids always gravitate to AJ.”
Back at the hospital, Kirk recognizes a young lady in a wheelchair and gives her a hug. The teen’s mother, Debby Potter, is a big fan. “We request him all the time,” she says. “We love his tricks. He entertains us. We seek him out every time we come to the hospital.”
Kirk jokes with the teen, Danaya Lambert, about making sure that she eats her veggies. They then take turns naming vegetables. He asks her if she likes corn. She says corn isn’t a vegetable. It’s a starch. He then offers asparagus. “It makes your pee stink,” he says.
They both laugh. The Yo-Yo Man has done it again.
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