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Lions and tigers and cheetahs! Oh my! Aurora becomes a junior zookeeper

  • Zookeeper Aurora

  • Ready for her day at the San Diego Zoo!

  • Aurora's cheetah presentation at the Honolulu Zoo

  • Aurora the Zoo Keeper

“ The wish showed her she can do what she always dreamed of! ”

- Tonya, Aurora's mom

Nine-year-old Aurora isn’t afraid to mingle with the wild things. In fact, she dreams of becoming a veterinarian and caring for all kinds of safari animals, including her favorite—the cheetah.

When Aurora was diagnosed with leukemia, it seemed as though her dream would have to be put on hold.  She and her family became used to a life of hospitals and medical treatments.  A glimmer of hope came when Aurora was told her wish to be a zookeeper was coming true!  She would have the opportunity to jump right into the safari at the San Diego Zoo and meet a variety of different animals.  For once, Aurora wouldn’t be a child battling leukemia; she would be a zookeeper.  Her wish gave her something to look forward to and was a source of inspiration and excitement for her entire family.   

The first stop on Aurora’s wish experience was Sea World.  She and her family were surrounded by a variety of marine animals and even had the chance to go on a special penguin tour, during which they came face to face with one of the charismatic birds. 

Finally, it was time for Aurora to get up close and personal with the cheetahs.  She was treated to a VIP cheetah tour, complete with behind the scenes access to the Safari Park and the opportunity to meet these majestic creatures.  Not only was this a once in a lifetime experience for Aurora, but it also gave her “a renewed vision that she can still do what she has always dreamed of!” said Tonya, Aurora’s mom.   

Aurora’s wish didn’t end in San Diego.  When she arrived back in Hawaii, she enjoyed a special welcome home party at the Honolulu Zoo.  Now a cheetah expert, Aurora got to make a presentation on cheetahs and even had the opportunity to adopt a cheetah of her own.    

Aurora’s wish was a gift to the entire family.  It gave them the strength to face Aurora’s illness with a renewed sense of hope.

Special thanks to:  United Health Care, Make-A-Wish San Diego, wish granters Darin Inouye and Joseph Whalen

It [the wish] wasn’t just for her – the entire family needed to see her have a wish . . . ”

— Tonya, Aurora's mom

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If you received a wish from Make-A-Wish®, or helped grant a kid's wish, or just have a great story to tell about a Make-A-Wish experience, we invite you to share your story by contacting Alison Mehrman at Tell us how it impacted you and feel free to send any related photos or artwork. 

We highlight as many of the great wish stories that we can; however, due to the high volume of stories submitted, we cannot guarantee that your story will be selected. 

We are proud to showcase authentic voices and stories of wish experiences. We only make minor edits when required for spelling, brand name and trademark accuracy, protection of wish kid and family privacy, and some celebrity and corporate sponsor references. 

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Make-A-Wish® Hawaii
P.O. Box 1877
Honolulu, HI 96805
(808) 537-3118 x100