For most people, encountering a shark in the ocean is likely one of their greatest fears. But for 12-year-old Benjamin, it’s his one true wish.
“Swimming with sharks off the coast of Hawaii is something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Ben, who has been obsessed with the ocean since he was a little kid. “They are really cool animals and I wanted to see what they look like up close.”
While his wish granters were quite surprised by his request, the nature of Ben’s health is possibly one of the reasons why he is so daring.
“Benjamin has a life-threatening kidney disorder. He has a feeding tube and is constantly getting blood work taken,” said his mom, Stephanie.
“Being wrapped up in the medical world, Ben is frequently in and out of doctors’ offices, so has always wanted to travel and explore,” she continued. “In his spare time, he discovered his passion for learning about the ocean.”
When Benjamin learned he would need to start dialysis for his condition, he realized he needed to go on his wish trip as soon as possible.
“In the future, going through dialysis, Ben wouldn’t be able to go swimming, especially swimming with sharks!” said Stephanie. “Ben is a fighter and wouldn’t settle for anything less, so we were excited Make-A-Wish Arizona could make his wish possible just when he need it.”
It wasn’t long before Benjamin and his family of ten found out they would be traveling to Hawaii, only two short weeks before their scheduled flight.
The anticipation began when local aquarium, SEA LIFE, surprised Benjamin with the chance to feed the sharks in their huge shark exhibit.
“I finished feeding the sharks, and then my wish granters told us that my wish was coming true!” said Ben. “I started counting down the days to Hawaii right then!”
Once Benjamin and his family arrived in Oahu, they had the opportunity to explore the island for the first few days.
“I was really excited to see Pearl Harbor and the Navy ships because I’ve learned a lot about them and their history,” said Ben, who purchased a now favorite shirt from the gift shop.
His family also went whale watching, feasted at a luau and had an unforgettable experience at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
“They gave me a spear made out of clay and wood with shark teeth embedded in it!” said Ben. “I thought it was so cool to learn about the different weapons they use to battle in Hawaii.”
Before they knew it, the big day had finally arrived for Ben’s shark diving adventure.
“I was so happy, excited and nervous, all at the same time!” he said. “We were in cages and I didn’t realize that I would be swimming so close to the sharks, which was a little alarming, but still cool.”
“He was in his element, and I was so out of mine!” said Stephanie, with a laugh. “Benjamin just loves everything related to the ocean, so he was so happy it was actually happening.”
Now back home, Benjamin has started his dialysis treatments and is happiest when he is reading ocean or battle books. He still looks back on his wish as one of his best experiences of his life and he will never forget his swimming with sharks adventure.
“We had such an amazing experience because of this extraordinary organization,” said Stephanie. “Make-A-Wish Arizona truly understands children’s wishes and creates such a powerful connection with the kids. We are so thankful they could do this for our family.”