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Gavin's Australia Adventure

  • Gavin bonds with a kangaroo.

  • Australia Zoo: Home of The Crocodile Hunter...and Zookeeper Gavin!

  • Gavin cuddles with a koala.

“ If I could, I would work in the Australia Zoo with the koalas, meerkats and the wombats! ”

- Gavin

When eight-year-old Gavin stood in the Wishing Room at the Samuel & Josephine Plumeri Wishing place, home of Make-A-Wish New Jersey, the task of choosing his wish seemed simple. He thought back to all the times after his diagnosis in December of 2016 that he had hung out with his four-legged, cuddly therapy friends. These animals had made his journey with acute lymphoblastic leukemia that much easier.

So naturally, Gavin wished to be a zookeeper at Australia Zoo.

In response to his wish, the Mission Delivery Team at Make-A-Wish New Jersey got to work planning his excursion to Australia where there would be no shortage of cuddly animals for Gavin to interact with. But before he even took off, Gavin was gifted with the big surprise of a visit from the Mayor of Westfield and a police escort to the airport. Gavin says that when he saw all the people there to wish him well on his trip, he thought, “this is the best day of my life!” Surrounded by love and support, Gavin grew eager to be surrounded by koalas and kangaroos.

First stop was Surfers Paradise where Gavin’s family stayed in an apartment overlooking the Gold Coast. The Australian sun glistened down on the Pacific Ocean, providing the perfect atmosphere for relaxation and surfing lessons. The following day they visited Currumbin and did a high ropes course, ziplining above crocodile enclosures.

The most exciting part of Gavin’s wish came when he got the opportunity to suit up in his khaki uniform become a zookeeper at Australia Zoo! Gavin spent two days at the zoo alongside real-life zookeepers who showed him the ropes. They zipped him around the facility, allowing him to interact and care for tigers, wombats, rhinos, and koalas, feed the birds, kangaroos, and giraffes, and cuddle with meerkats. Gavin says his favorite part was meeting the meerkats, one of which sat on his head.

Gavin and his family continued their trip north of Surfers Paradise in Cairns where they rode the Kuranda Scenic Railway, watched a didgeridoo performance in the Palmagiri Aboriginal Experience, and snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef.

A few days relaxing on the beach, exploring the zoo and enjoying the sunshine was just what Gavin’s family needed to unwind. “It was a once in a lifetime chance to go all the way to Australia,” Gavin says. “When I get older, I want to go back. If I could, I would work in the Australia Zoo with the koalas, meerkats and the wombats!”

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Make-A-Wish® New Jersey
Samuel & Josephine Plumeri Wishing Place
1384 Perrineville Road
Monroe Township, NJ 08831
(609) 371-9474
Toll Free (800) 252-9474