Ep. 76 Overcoming the Odds: Finding Light in the Dark to Live a Life Filled with Joy, Purpose, and Fudge with Aaron Hale of Extra Ordinary Delights


Happy #SeekTheJoy Tuesday!

On the podcast this week is Aaron Hale, a 14 year veteran, military chef and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (E.O.D) team leader, and founder of Extra Ordinary Delights.

When Aaron reached out to me about the possibility of sharing his story on Seek The Joy, I was so blown away by his story and his courage - I knew without a doubt we had to make this happen. Despite everything he’s been through, Aaron has pushed past and embraced adversity, pursued his passions, and built and cultivated a life he loves and brings him joy.

After serving 14 years in both the Navy as a chef to the Commander of the US 6th Fleet and then going onto becoming an Army team leader in one of the military’s most dangerous jobs, Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD), Staff Sergeant Aaron Hale was blinded by an IED. Not letting his injuries hold him back, Aaron become an EOD instructor, motivational speaker, mountain climber, white water kayaker, and marathon runner. Four years later tragedy struck again when Aaron contracted bacterial meningitis which robbed him of his hearing leaving him not just 100% blind, but completely deaf as well.

Aaron picked himself up, dusted himself off, and continued to chase the best of what life has to offer. Today, he’s back speaking and sharing his story, running marathons, he’s a proud husband and father of an eight year-old son and two identical twins, and runs a thriving chocolate company with his wife, Extra Ordinary Delights.

In this week’s episode Aaron shares his incredible journey cooking in the Navy to serving as an expert EOD tech in the military, facing the IED explosion that changed his life forever, and launching Extra Ordinary Delights after overcoming bacterial meningitis. We chat about resilience and the power of mindset, overcoming adversity, finding light in the darkness and embracing acceptance in the face of the unknown. We chat about the incredible journey he’s been on with Extra Ordinary Delights, Aaron’s hand-crafted fudge, and he shares the purpose, therapy, and joy he’s found through cooking, healing through choosing a smile, his biggest dream, and so much more!

Aaron has overcome all odds. From the moment a blast robbed him of his vision in Afghanistan to years later when he lost his hearing, he refused to accept defeat. I’m so grateful we had this conversation and it was so much fun to connect and have this conversation with Aaron. I can’t wait to hear what you think! Make sure to join the conversation on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!

I did not want to be one of those twenty-two we lose each day, I didn’t want to be a service member that was feeling sorry for himself, sitting on the couch and popping pills for the rest of his life. So even though those demons, the what-if’s and why me’s tried to creep in, I was determined to make the best of my situation.
— Aaron Hale

Aaron Hale’s journey has been nothing short of extraordinary, inspirational, and a true testament to the power of mindset, and what it means to overcome adversity and choose your joy. After six years as an expert EOD Technician in the military, Aaron 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.

The explosion had taken his sight, affected his smell, broken most of the bones in his face and head, perforated most of his eardrums and burned his face. Despite what he was facing, he knew he didn’t want to get stuck on the couch. He spent a year and half as an instructor at the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, and it was then he started cycling, running, climbing and white-water kayaking. Anything that he could do to be outside and feel purposeful, he would do it. He found his passion in running, and before he knew it Aaron had registered for his first marathon - and even before he ran his first marathon, he had registered for four more.

I continue to try to achieve, to press what’s possible, to find new challenges and continue my growth, and it’s because of innovators who came before me who light the way.
— Aaron Hale

Aaron ran four marathons within four months, and in 2014 he qualified for the Boston Marathon. He was one week away from climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro - he was embracing his new normal, and he was smiling more. 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.

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. 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. He started cooking again, and the smile returned to his face, too.

I love that now, instead of avoiding challenges I’m facing them head on, and seeking out new challenges. It’s become the way. I’m learning to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.
— Aaron Hale

Cooking became Aaron’s therapy, and it took his mind off the pain - both physical and emotional. He had something to look forward to. It was one unlikely offering - Aaron’s handcrafted fudge - that caught the attention of his friends and family. 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.

E.O.D. Fudge was born (Extra Ordinary Delights) - the name both serving as a nod to the years Aaron spent as an EOD Tech in the military, and to the perfectionism with which he approached that former position. Their fudge is hand poured and mixed on special tables to produce the smoothest, creamiest fudge you will ever taste. All of their homemade confections are made without preservatives to extend shelf life and are hand wrapped and packaged. Everything comes fresh to you from their kitchen to your doorstep.

Now equipped with cochlear implants and the help of his wife McKayla’s extensive experience in branding and business development, Aaron has found his passion again, in the kitchen. They’re setting their goals high, with a commercial kitchen and partnerships with big name distributors. EOD Fudge brought the smile back to Aaron’s face, and a renewed purpose, too. Cooking is providing not only a sense of happiness for himself but for others around the world, one piece of fudge at a time.

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.

McKayla and Aaron work together every day to create these Extra Ordinary Delights, and they can’t wait to share them with you, too!

To learn more about Aaron and what he’s cooking up with EOD Fudge, you can connect with him on their website here and on Instagram @eodconfections Facebook @eodconfections and Twitter @eodconfections



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Sydney WeissComment