When Louie thought about all the possibilities for his wish, he wanted a complete change of scenery.
“I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise ship and I like the cold a lot. That's why I chose a cruise to Alaska,” said Louie, who hasn’t always called Tucson his home.
“I lived in England when I was younger, but I don’t remember much, so I wanted to experience snow for what would feel like the ‘first time’ in my life,” he continued.
Louie’s wish to walk across the snowy terrain of Alaska was not only something he had never done before, but something he may never physically have the chance to do again because of his condition.
“We found out a year ago that Louie has a rare form of peripheral hereditary neuropathy, a degenerative disease that affects his feet and legs,” said his mom, Jenni.
“It was quick to affect his mobility,” she continued. “First his legs started getting weaker and he couldn’t hold things as well, and now he needs braces to walk more than 100 yards.”
Louie, who goes to a muscular dystrophy clinic in Tucson, first heard about Make-A-Wish Arizona from his social worker there.
“When our wish granters came, I was so curious to see what he would tell them was his one true wish,” said Jenni. “He is a good kid, quiet by nature and never asks for anything, so I was ready for anything.”
“Once we found out his wish was approved, it was so hard to keep it a secret,” said Jenni. “We threw a big party at Dave & Buster’s to reveal Louie’s wish and I think that’s when it finally became real to him.”
Louie began planning the fun activities he hoped to do with his family, like seeing glaciers and going dog sledding.
“It’s been hard year for Louie dealing with his condition, and I loved seeing him smile and have something he could look forward to, something that would make him excited,” Jenni said.
In fact, one of Louie’s favorite wish activities was simply enjoying time on the cruise ship.
“He loved the ice cream and had three servings before we even left the port!” said Jenni, with a laugh.
Louie’s wish began with a helicopter ride to a Glacier Bay, an expanse of terrestrial ice along south-eastern Alaska.
“The blue ice and clear water was so beautiful,” said Jenni. “Everyone was so nice, and made us feel so special. The captain even let us go up to the bridge with him!”
“It was a lot colder than I expected, but I still liked it!” said Louie.
At their port in Ketchikan, Louie went crab fishing and they had the chance to eat their catch during a big celebration that night.
“Louie is normally so quiet and reserved,” said Jenni. “It was amazing to watch him come out of his shell and get excited about so many things throughout the week.”
Louie and his family also enjoyed stops in Juneau and Victoria, British Columbia, where they spotted bears, whales and other wildlife before returning home.
“We went in a big snow truck to the top of this mountain and we were able to ride dog sleds and pet the puppies,” said Jenni. “Louie gets tired very easily, but he did so well walking around Alaska. To see him mobile and excited was amazing. It was a gift we still talk about to this day.”
Now Louie is focusing on school and his physical and occupational therapy, but his mom is happy her kids were able to enjoy this rare time together.
“We don’t get to go on many holidays and when my kids are at home, they usually just stay in their rooms and do their own thing,” said Jenni. “Louie’s brothers are teenagers, but everyone had so much fun and it was great to see the boys bond and spend time with one another during his wish.”
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most but this actually is for Louie,” said Jenni. “Seeing him just be happy and enjoy himself is such a powerful memory that I will never forget and nothing can take that away.”