The Nat Geo fan would spend hours learning about animals, park rangers, poachers, and anything and everything to do with the wild. When he found out he would be granted a wish, there was no question as to what it would be: an African safari adventure!
Aiden’s two-year battle with leukemia was long and difficult but the stuffed animals and books about safaris kept him hopeful, positive and focused on his upcoming wish. Throughout his illness, when he felt down and his treatment seemed endless, he and his family would open a book and go to the place they dreamed about in their minds.
The reality of their adventure, however, didn’t truly sink in until they were on the plane to Africa. “We saw elephants and giraffes from the plane. We were totally mesmerized,” said Aiden’s mom, Eve. “We felt like we were in a different world. Every day made him happier.”
Each amazing and beautiful ride into the wild was different from the last. The family fell in love with the elephants, especially the babies.
Aiden was delighted by their different personalities!
Another highlight for him, however, was seeing the lions. The family first saw them during a daytime outing, when the animals were sleeping. They thought that would be the extent of it and were content with having seen them from afar. But that night, during their evening ride, the park rangers brought them back to watch the lions hunt in the darkness, an unimaginable thrill for Aiden. He could not believe what he was seeing. Eve said, “I have never seen more excitement in his eyes in my whole life. He was just beaming. I was so overwhelmed that I started crying.”
After returning home, Eve said, “We are closer as a family because we shared this experience together.” The family often looks through their photos from the trip. Even though Aiden is no longer in treatment, there are sometimes still difficult days. “When we need a pick-me-up, we go back to the pictures. That’s our happy place.”
The Make-A-Wish experience also helped Aiden’s family realize that they were not alone in their struggles. They were floored by the support they received from virtual strangers. “I couldn’t wrap my head around it. It was so wonderful that people reached out to us and helped pull us up.”
Now, Aiden is healthier than he’s ever been. “He’s eating like a beast and growing like a weed!” laughed Eve. She has since become a volunteer for Make-A-Wish and will be helping other kids like Aiden find their wish come true. Make-A-Wish changed the course of Aiden’s healing process, and the family couldn’t be more grateful. “I’m in it for life,” said Eve.