Ask thirteen-year-old Donovan what his favorite subject is and he’ll know his answer right away. Science is his passion and his excitement for it is infectious.
Donovan battles a condition called Sickle Cell Anemia, which can slow or block blood flow and oxygen to parts of his body. His medical journey hasn’t been easy on him or his family, but there has always been one thing that could take his mind off doctor’s visits and blood tests – his passion for studying the weather, climates and most of all, volcanoes! So it was no surprise when he wished to be a volcanologist and study one of the most active volcanoes in the world, Kilauea!
This was an explosive wish that needed to be celebrated in proper fashion, so Make-A-Wish Hawaii threw a wish reveal party for him on his Birthday with friends and family. Before watching his favorite film in a private theater, Donovan blew out candles on an awesome volcano cake and was given gifts to prepare him for his week-long trip to the Big Island!
After a short plane ride down the island chain, Donovan and his parents arrived at Hilo airport, where they were given a surprise welcome by volunteers who carried “Welcome Donovan!” and “Happy Wish Day!” signs. Donovan was smiling from ear to ear and couldn’t believe this was all for him.
For the next 5 days, he would meet some of the most prestigious scientists in meteorology, astronomy, volcanology and geology, and learned about everything from volcanic rocks, to the crater and Kilauea’s rich cultural history.
To start the experience off right, Donovan was given a cultural lesson by Aunty Jessie, an expert in native Hawaiian history. She told him about Madam Pele (Hawaii’s Volcano Goddess) and the formation of the Hawaiian islands from a cultural perspective and stressed the importance of sharing the stories of her ancestors to help them live on. Donovan was fixated on her while she spoke, hanging onto every word.
After learning about Kilauea’s cultural history, Donovan was ready to get down to the science of these powerful volcanoes. From a stop at the Kilauea Visitor’s center where Ranger Chantel took him to overlook the crater, to a visit to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory where he met scientists who showed him different types of lava rocks and hot spots like the Thurston lava tube, Donovan had a blast! But that wasn’t all, he was also given a mini astronomy lesson under the stars by Dr. Richard Griffiths, an astronomer from UH Hilo.
The fun continued the next few days with a trip to UH Hilo where he went on a behind the scenes public outreach program where interactive activities like a tsunami wave tank and baking soda volcano were set up for him. Exploring the lava field was number one on his list and Darcy Bevens from UH Hilo’s Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes, took him on a hike through the massive lava field.
With all this new knowledge of Volcanoes from the experts, it was only right that Donovan be given a certificate of completion for his work as a Junior Volcanologist. To present this achievement to him, a party was held at the Imiloa Astronomy Center where he watched the Planetarium Show and celebrated with volunteers.
During his last day on the island, Donovan went on a thrilling ride in a Blue Hawaiian helicopter! Flying over the crater and lave field gave him a new perspective. Everything he had learned in the field and in the labs came together to create a cohesive understanding of what makes Hawaii so majestic, both scientifically and culturally. He was given a new appreciation for the islands and the science behind it, further boosting his confidence in his dream to be a real volcanologist!
Donovan left his wish joyful. He felt re-energized and ready to take on an exciting future as a scientist.
Donovan’s dad, Mike, remembered how happy he was on his wish saying, “Donovan was so excited, he didn’t want to go to sleep or take his vest off. He woke up early every day because he couldn’t wait to get started.”
Special Thanks: Lambda Psi at UH Hilo, Circle K at UH Hilo, Joyce and Family, Marilyn Shigetani,Teri Childers, Albert & Lorna Jeyte, Aunty Jesse and Ohana, Volcano House, Chantel Weaver, Andrea Kaawaloa-Okita, Jessica Ferracane, Janet Babb, Dr. Don Swanson, Dr. Frank Trusdell, Tim Orr, Tina Neal, Dr. Richard Griffiths, Ann Gornik and Family, Darcy Bevens, David Carvalho, Dr. Ken Hon, Aaron Pacheco, Sarah Anderson, Dustin Acdal, Kim Dalton, Mark McKellar, Laura Dressel, Blue Hawaiian, KTA Super Stores, Ben Franklin Crafts and Wish Granters: Rayen Watanabe & Lauren Kavanaugh.