While living in Hawaii is paradise, one thing arguably missing is a lack of thrill rides and amusement parks! For 16-year-old Kirby, who battles lymphoma, the idea of escaping his medical treatment regimens and experiencing the exhilarating freedom found on rollercoasters was a happy place for his mind to wander! So, when Kirby learned of his eligibility for a wish, it didn’t take long for Make-A-Wish® Hawaii staff to uncover this Oahu teen’s wish to be a thrill seeker.
As Make-A-Wish® Hawaii staff and volunteers began mapping out an adventure-packed wish trip for Kirby, it became clear that his wish for thrilling heights and adventure ran deeper than experiencing joy – Kirby dreams of one day being a military pilot. “I love military stuff. I want to ride big rollercoasters … It would make me the happiest,” Kirby wrote to staff. His search for thrills evolved into something bigger than rollercoasters. It grew into a wish that would also encourage him to pursue his dream career.
Getting the chance to ride the nation’s top thrill rides would give him the feeling of being in flight, he hoped. “When looking at the top 20 thrill rides in the United States, we noticed that six to seven of those were in California,” said Kari, one of Kirby’s wish granters. So, we sent him to Los Angeles with his family.
For a special send off, Make-A-Wish® Hawaii threw a party that tapped into his passion for aviation. We surprised him with a glider ride at Dillingham Airfield on the 5,000-foot runway! The glider he rode, named “The Aloha Spirit,” is used for aerobatic demonstration flights. The flight for Kirby wasn’t just a scenic tour; he was able to spice up the ride with interval aerial maneuvers! He got to see with a bird’s eye view the stretching ocean and the multiple nature reserves as he flew over west Oahu – a touching moment that started Kirby’s wish trip with a personalized experience!
Off to Los Angeles! His family stayed at The Sheraton Universal Hotel, near the exciting Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park! There, he got to spend two full days exploring the thrill rides, taking him to his happy place of being in flight – a place where his dreams take off and his cancer is left on the ground. While in California, he also got to check out Universal Studios Hollywood, where more exciting rides and entertainment awaited. In addition, he had time to re-connect with other family members living in California. “He and the kids had a blast,” said Kirby’s Grandfather Philip.
Upon his return to Hawaii, Make-A-Wish® Hawaii teamed up with 15th Operations Group at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, who started the “Pilot for a Day” program to give a day filled with flight, simulations and encouragement. Kirby’s “Pilot For a Day” mentor, Capt. Rush Taylor, 535th Airlift Squadron, gave Kirby an unforgettable experience to end his wish on an inspiring note.
His experience allowed him to defy heights, speed and gravity, but more importantly, it gave him a needed boost of hope, strength and joy to continue battling his cancer and never give up his dream of becoming a pilot.
Special Thanks: Capt. Rush Taylor, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Universal Studios Hollywood, Platinum Limousine, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Dillingham Airfield, Kirby’s wish granters Claudia Clement and Kari