Stephen Ball was looking to make a difference. It was the beginning of December in 2015, and Christmas was quickly approaching. He thought about the gifts he could buy for his nieces and nephews, but nothing seemed quite right.
“I couldn’t see myself getting them just more ‘stuff,’” explains Stephen. “I decided to do something different, and made an appointment to meet with the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Honolulu.”
Wanting to give, Stephen approached Make-A-Wish Hawaii with an open heart and an open mind. As he listened to the staff talk about their upcoming wishes, one stood out: Dominik’s wish to go on a safari.
Ten-year-old Dominik had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma the previous year, and he was not feeling himself. He was far away from his siblings, who were staying with relatives while their parents focused on Dominik’s treatment, and his chemotherapy was taking a toll.
When he found out he was eligible for a wish, it was just the thing to help him keep pushing through his illness. Dominik immediately knew what his most heartfelt wish would be: to go on a safari. A few years prior, he and his family had visited the Animal Kingdom at Disney World. Dominik explains, “Seeing all the amazing animals, like elephants, zebras, lions, rhinos, and giraffes, made me think how awesome it would be to see not only these animals, but many other animals in their natural habitat.”
Soon, all Dominik could think of was going on a safari. He spent much of his time watching in awe as the animals roamed around free on The Discovery Channel and National Geographic. But Dominik wasn’t sure if his wish to see wildlife up close would come true. “I knew that my request was big,” he says.
As Dominik waited, Stephen planned. In a stroke of fate, he just so happened to live in Namibia part of the year, where he worked as a mining engineer. When he heard about Dominik’s wish, he knew he needed to adopt it. “Although I had no idea how it was going to happen, I knew we were going to make Dominik’s wish come true,” he says.
During his next trip to Namibia, Stephen started to engage his coworkers in planning this very special wish, and Dominik’s safari adventure began to take shape.
Finally, the day had come. After reuniting with his siblings, Dominik and his family were off to Africa.
From the very first moment, Dominik knew this would be the experience of a lifetime. On the drive to the lodge, Dominik saw his first animals in the wild: baboons! “I knew after seeing them so close that this trip was going to be awesome!” he says. “As we got closer, we saw several other animals, and the giraffes came up to the gates to greet us.”
Over the next week, Dominik, his family, and “Uncle Steve” had an incredible experience in Africa. They went on game drives and desert tours, saw Dominik’s favorite animal (the rare rhino), visited game reserves, and immersed themselves in the local culture.
It was truly a wish come true. “I felt like I was in a dream,” says Dominik. “I was able to forget about my cancer and the not-so-great times that I had. Getting to go on my wish trip and meeting so many kind people makes me teary eyed now.”
And it was just as transformational for Uncle Steve. “I can definitely say that it has been a life-changing event and one that I will always cherish,” he says. “One of the greatest things in life is to share a smile with someone; it takes no effort and the effects can last a lifetime. I am so honored that I was able to share a smile with Dominik, his family, and all of those involved.”
Make-A-Wish Hawaii would like to thank Stephen Ball and B2Gold Namibia for their generosity in adopting and coordinating a truly incredible wish for Dominik. This wish is a prime example of how communities near and far come together to bring children’s wishes to life.