Teenager With Chronic Disease Has Make-A-Wish Dream Granted
The wish of a 16-year-old Great Falls boy living with a chronic disease came true on Sunday when he learned he’s headed on a free trip to Alaska to fish and watch whales with his grandfather and two brothers.
Tristan Williams found out his wish had been granted at a “reveal party” arranged by Make-A-Wish Montana at the Celtic Cowboy.
“Surprise!” family and friends shouted when Tristan and his mother, Melodee arrived.
“I thought we were going to play pool,” a smiling Tristan said.
Make-A-Wish volunteers Bobbie Swingly and Jaimee Gregoire and Tristan’s mother, Melodee Williams, conspired in arranging the surprise. Williams will make the trip June 13-19.
“That’s like a dream to go fishing,” Tristan said of his fondness for The Last Frontier. “Actually, I’d really like to live up there.”
Williams, an outdoor enthusiast, has long dreamed of exploring Alaska, he said. During the trip, he will go sled-dog racing in Seward, whale watching on a Kenai Fjords Cruise and visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.
Tristan’s dream of going to Alaska fit with a dream of his grandfather, Don Schmidt, who also has always wanted to go fishing in Alaska. Schmidt and his Tristan’s two brothers, Taylor and Trent, will make the trip to Alaska, too thanks to the Make-A-Wish-Montana grant.
Make-A-Wish Montana’s mission is to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy, the organization says.
Williams has eosinophilic esophagitis, or EoE, a chronic, allergic inflammatory disease of the esophagus. He has to be careful of what he eats because an allergic reaction can cause his throat to swell up and restrict airflow.
As a result, Tristan said he eats a lot of ice cream.
“He’s got a great, positive attitude,” said T.J. Eskelsen, Tristan’s doctor, a pediatrician at the Great Falls Clinic who was among the guests at the surprise party. “Very patient, too.”
Granting the wishes usually costs $8,000 to $10,000, said Gregoire, Tristan’s “wish grantor” who coordinated of the surprise. The not-for-profit is financed solely through private cash and in-kind donations. Tristan’s wish wasn’t typical and will cost a bit more, she said.
Jewelers for Children, which runs a national scholarship program, approved a scholarship for Tristan’s Alaska trip and also chipped in a diamond necklace for Tristan’s mom, Melodee. North 40 Outfitters donated a $500 gift card to help Tristan prepare for the trip.
Make-A-Wish Montana has granted 38 wishes this year, said Douglas Koester, its president and CEO. Currently, 35 children are waiting to have their wish granted. The organization receives about four new referrals each month, Koester said.
Make-A-Wish has had a presence in Montana since 1987. Two years ago, a state chapter was formed so all the funding now goes toward Montana kids, said Jared Brown, chairman of the 14-member state board.