There’s a new addition to the Survivor family!
Earl Cole, who won Survivor: Fiji in 2007, has become a father for the first time. His wife, Shelley Lee, gave birth to daughter Kaia JoAnn Cole on Friday, Nov. 10, at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, California.
Kaia weighed in at 8 lbs., 14 oz., and was 20.5 inches long.
Cole tells PEOPLE that the name has a special significance.
“Kaia means ‘ocean’ in Hawaiian,” Cole says. “My wife, Shelley, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and we got married on the island of Kauai seven years ago. Her middle name, JoAnn, is the first name of my mother who passed away this year from early Alzheimer’s — the day before we found out we were pregnant.”
Cole was very close to his mother, who died on March 2 at the age of 73. He even commemorated her in a documentary film, LADY J: The JoAnn Kendall Story.
To create the film, he worked with Emmy Award-winning editor Michael Griffin. “It really documents what Alzheimer’s does to people and their families,” he told PEOPLE.
Despite his mother’s death, Cole says that he believes she lives on. “We feel that my mother’s spirit — she was a healer and a hero — helped make it all happen,” he says. “Kaia is her first and only grand-daughter who she always wanted, but never got a chance to meet!”
And Cole says that he and Shelley are thrilled at their “miracle baby,” who is in perfect health. “It took us seven years to get to this point,” he says. “We are super excited for baby No. 1!”