Make-A-Wish Foundation Brings Paralyzed 13-Year-Old to Alaska
Adventures include ice fishing, Rondy, Iditarod
FINGER LAKE - Hundreds of kids were out at Finger Lake for the fifth annual Ice Fishing Derby on Saturday. While ice fishing may be commonplace for many families during the winter, for one 13-year-old boy it was the trip of a life time.
For many kids at Finger Lake on Saturday, it was just another day of ice fishing, but for 13-year-old Hunter Austin, spending a day in the frigid temperatures of Alaska isn't an ordinary adventure.
“I just wanted to go ice fishing and they said, okay, let's go to Alaska,” Hunter said. “It's cold, I mean, like really cold.”
Hunter and his family traveled to the Last Frontier from their home in sunny Florida. This is his dream trip, granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“ I got in the hospital and I stayed seven months,” Hunter said. “In the first two days they found a tumor and I became paralyzed.” The paralysis was brought on by acute myeloid leukemia.
“It's been really hard,” said Bonnie Hunter, Austin’s mom. “We all work and he goes to school but it.”
For hunter, it turns out arctic angling is a little frustrating. He got a few nibbles, but that was about it. And he wasn't the only one – the fish just weren't biting.
But organizers say it's great to see so many kids come out for the fishing derby, which also happens to be a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Over the past four years they've raised more than $15,000, or enough money to grant three wishes.
“This is amazing,” said Nicole Sheldon, the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s regional director. “We're a very small organization in Alaska; it's a grassroots effort, like the master angler Paul Reed's efforts that help us truly grant wishes that we're granting in our community.
While he waited for the trout to take, he decided to test out his wheels outside, then got a scenic tour around the lake.
While Hunter may never walk again, he's got the support of his family and newfound Alaskan friends to help him carry on.
Hunter's family spent Sunday taking in all the events at Fur Rondy. On Monday they headed to Willow where Hunter got to go mushing.
Make-A-Wish staff say he's not the only one from down south who wants to see Alaska in the winter. Next weekend they're granting a wish for a boy in Texas to see the Iditarod.