Make-A-Wish Arizona often gets letters of thanks from our wish families. We were recently received one from Christy, the mother of Ashleigh who is dealing with a life-threatening disease of the nervous system, about their trip to Canada to see a polar bear in the wild.
Dear Make-A-Wish Arizona,
When I asked Ashleigh to tell me some of the things she liked most about the trip, she tried and tried but finally just said “it’s hard to tell what I liked because I liked it all”. So I will attempt to fill you in on a couple of things we thought were particularly exciting.
First, both Ashleigh and Camille (her sister) were thrilled to be picked up in a limo for the ride to the airport. They were so excited and thought they were super cool. We had a three hour layover in Minneapolis and they thought it was amazing that there is a mini-mall in the airport.
The next morning on the flight to Churchill, Ashleigh was fascinated by the clouds and how many layers there were. When we were over the Hudson Bay, all she could do was stare out the window, she was in awe.
Once we arrived in Churchill, we were treated like royalty. The lodge owners had placed a gift basket in our room with Polar Bear related gifts in it for Ashleigh. We were surprised by the lack of snow on the ground and found out that this is common for Churchill.
The huge vehicle, which is called a “Crawler”, that took us out on the tundra was fully equipped with all we needed for an eight hour stay, just in case snow came when we weren’t expecting it. There was a restroom, an outside observation deck and a heater — all on the truck!
We were served a picnic lunch both days on the tundra as we searched for –and spotted — polar bears. One of the highlights of being in the “Crawler” was Ashleigh taking the drivers seat and doing the steering for a bit.
It goes without saying that the biggest highlight of the trip was the first time we laid eyes on a polar bear! It was spotted on some rocks a fair distance from us but we stopped and just stared. Everyone was silent because it was such a magical moment. We drove a bit further and saw a bear up close. He wandered around and mostly slept, but he did get within about 20 feet of us. It was amazing to see how he interacted with a group of Canadian Eskimo dogs adjacent to where he laid down, or should I say did not interact. We watched these animals have mutual respect for each other and not bother each other at all.
Ashleigh said she could have stayed for hours and just watched the polar bear sleep. We saw bears on both Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon.
We learned a great deal about Churchill on a tour of the town. Ashleigh would be able to tell you quite a few things she learned about the area. And we enjoyed eating a local dish, called Poutine.
The people we met while we were gone were also a highlight for us. The lodge was terrific and all of the staff and owners were so very nice and professional. They treated Ashleigh like she was the only guest they had. There was a flight attendant on the plane from Minneapolis to Churchill that singled Ashleigh out and gave her and Camille some Delta wings and asked about our trip. On the way home, the flight attendants took Ashleigh to meet the pilot and have a picture in the cockpit. She loved it!
Ashleigh’s wish was filled many times over and she and all of us had an experience of a lifetime. Thank you so much!