17-year-old Marquel sees the world through a different lens than most kids his age.
Battling stage 5 chronic kidney disease, Marquel receives dialysis three times a week and it’s easy for him to feel exhausted, both mentally and physically, trapped inside the walls of his own home.
“He sees everyone else travel, which is hard for him,” shared his mom, Natarsha. “Marquel goes to treatment so much, it’s been a while since he has been able to go anywhere but the hospital.”
One thing continues to help Marquel during tough times so he can look toward the future - his love for photography.
“I see images of all the incredible places in the world, and I'm inspired to get out there and take my own pictures," said Marquel. “I’m going to study art when I go to college and when I was told I could have a wish, I decided I would wish to learn more about nature photography so I can build my portfolio and get more experience. I asked to learn in Hawaii because it’s one of the most beautiful places in nature.”
Marquel, who had never been to an island before, couldn’t wait to experience a much-needed vacation and have the opportunity to take pictures in jungle and water settings.
“We were counting down the days to Marquel’s wish,” said Natarsha. “First it was two months, then 30 days – it was something he could really look forward to during treatment.”
His adventure began when Marquel and his family arrived in Hawaii for a week of fun.
First, he had a photo lesson with island and nature photographer Heather Goodman. Goodman has 10 years of experience as a photographer and teaches classes and workshops on photography.
“We went to a beach and I learned how to pose people, capture the best angles and use different camera techniques,” he said.
With some key nature photography tips in his mind, Marquel went to a second beach and then spent time hanging out and learning from Zak Noyle, one of the biggest underwater photographers in the world.
During this lesson, Marquel was also able to practice his new photography skills on wish kid Gal, who was coincidentally learning how to surf on the same beach! A year ago, she was too weak to walk because of her leukemia, and Marquel captured photos of her walking along the beach to celebrate how far she’s come.
“The world brings amazing souls together for a reason,” said Zak. “I’m thankful I was able to be a part of Marquel's and Gal’s wishes and their special day.”
At the end of the day, Marquel felt ready to venture off on his own and assisted the Hawaii chapter as the official photographer for their Macy’s Believe Day event.
Marquel and his family enjoyed other activities during their stay, going to the Honululu Zoo and taking a tour of Kualoa Ranch, where Jurassic Park was filmed. Yet, it was at the end of Marquel’s trip, that he really felt as if his wish had come true.
The Hawaii chapter surprised him with his own art show!
“We were so surprised!” said Natarsha. “There was a group of people standing around us and clapping as we walked to an open area where the pictures were.”
“It was so cool and inspiring to see my photos, I felt like I was a real professional photographer,” said Marquel, whose pictures from the week were printed and displayed at the Surfjack Hotel. “This means a lot to me, I never get chances to do things like this in my life and I’m really excited I was able to have this opportunity.”
Since returning home from his wish, Marquel has been looking into beginner photography classes so he can continue to learn and build his skills.
“I feel like I have a lot of business partners now,” said Marquel. “I hope I can get a camera for myself and, someday, I would really like to go to South America and take photos of the landscape there."
"It's easy to get upset about my disease and I’ve always wondered why all of this is happening to me, but my family and friends tell me I have the mentality of a warrior and they continue to inspire me to never give up."
Marquel’s wish is not only a fond memory for his family to look back on, but it’s an experience that his mom firmly believes will continue to shape his outlook in life.
“It was a way for us to let our hair down and spend time out of the hospital, which means so much,” said Natarsha. “But more than that, Marquel’s wish was a great learning experience, giving him skills that will benefit him in college and his future. It was an unexpected perk to his wish.”
“This opportunity let Marquel see that anything is possible,” she continued. “Now he can see his disease is not hindering, but a way to let others know that nothing should stop you from achieving your dreams.”