Josiah and his family are at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. Josiah is learning how to photograph animals under the tutelage of Hawk, the zoo’s official photographer. The day combines two of his passions – exotic wildlife and photography.
But this is not Josiah’s wish.
This is a wish enhancement, a local experience that enriches Josiah’s ultimate wish to go on a photo safari in Africa. In a letter to Make-A-Wish staff and trustees, Josiah wrote, “I have dreamed of going to Africa ever since I was 6 years old. I am very excited to go to Africa and have an adventure, photographing animals in their natural habitats.” The Make-A-Wish volunteers delivered on his wish, and Josiah and his family embarked on their 10-day safari last month, camera in hand.
But the volunteers didn’t stop there. They wanted to enhance the wish experience for this budding nature photographer. In preparation for Josiah's wish, they planned a day at Woodland Park Zoo to give him a taste of the wild in a local setting. This was no ordinary trip to the zoo though. Josiah learned plenty of photography techniques and tricks from Hawk, and before the day was out, Josiah was ready for his African photo safari.
“South Africa will be challenged to match the kindness and excitement Josiah and his family enjoyed at Woodland Park Zoo,” Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington volunteer Ken Kieffer wrote in a blog post for the zoo.
Josiah is one of many. Unique experiences and wish enhancements are happening all over the country in wish kids' local communities. As I read about recent wishes, I am frequently stunned by the time volunteers devote to getting to know each child and turning their interests into experiences. That may mean filling a limousine with a kid’s favorite candy or hosting the wish reveal at a jazz festival for a trumpet player and jazz enthusiast wish kid. Either way, these small touches reveal the dedication of our volunteers and the exceptionality of our wish kids.
Sometimes it’s these enhancements that make a child feel truly special, that extend the wish beyond a single day, unite a community and transform a wish into a truly life-changing experience.
Photos by Ryan Hawk, Woodland Park Zoo