When you have to endure multiple surgeries, it is a good idea to focus on something that will improve your spirit and provide hope! Stephen, who had undergone 20 surgeries on his leg, was in need of something positive, and Charles Darwin ended up being the best discovery he could have hoped for!
After enduring 20 surgeries on his leg and countless hours in physical therapy as a result of his osteosarcoma, Stephen longed for a diversion. When Stephen heard his teacher present on Darwin’s findings on evolution, he knew what his wish was going to be. He wanted to learn more about Darwin’s work and see where his observations took place; it would be the opportunity of a lifetime for a budding scientist.
“Once Stephen decided that he wanted to go to the Galapagos for his wish, he became motivated to be in the best condition possible to meet the physical demands of his trip,” his mom, Olivia, said. “He worked out extra hard in physical therapy and took long walks to build up strength and stamina. He wanted to be able to participate in all of the trip’s activities to the fullest.”
To prepare for the trip, Stephen watched a television special and read a field guide on the Galapagos Islands - this was the beginning of Stephen’s “Make-A-Wish magic!”
As soon as Stephen and his family arrived on the Galapagos Island of Baltra, “Stephen felt just like a ‘regular’ person again.” Every morning, he was the first person ready in his family, always enthusiastic to start the day and explore. Stephen was so eager to see all the animals he had learned about. He encountered iguanas, sea lion colonies, and frigate bird nesting areas. He also snorkeled with tropical fish and reef sharks while watching the green sea turtles swim around him. He was not the ‘kid with cancer’- he was just like everyone else.
Stephen’s adventure did not stop with the animals. He also embraced the elements by kayaking around Isabela Island, hiking, and snorkeling. While he continued exploring the Galapagos, Stephen continued to see more wildlife. On his kayaking adventure, he saw penguins and flightless cormorants. He even got up close and personal with a tortoise and was able to snap an awesome picture of the encounter. This was the power of a Make-A-Wish experience at its finest.
Stephen’s wish trip allowed him to become a junior naturalist and interact with the animals he spent so many hard days dreaming about.
“The granting of this wish provided our family with so many magnificent experiences. Most importantly, it has enabled Stephen to see that he can be successful in future activities,” Olivia said. “Stephen is more outgoing and confident now. The trip has piqued his interest in science and the environment. Although Stephen has since faced some setbacks with his leg, I think he can face it with more confidence and always look back at his incredible trip to the Galapagos with much happiness and a sense of accomplishment. Thank you so much.”