Terminally ill child deserves his last wish

With the end of his life in sight, a cancer-stricken Minnesota teen-ager hoped for the opportunity to write a fitting conclusion to his all-too-short life story. The Minnesota chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants the wishes of terminally ill children, answered his call for closure. Erik, whose last name has been withheld by the foundation, wanted to go on a Kodiak Bear hunt in Alaska with his best friend, his dad, and Make-A-Wish made it possible. Father and son began their hunt last Friday, leaving behind a nationwide controversy.
Granted, the more than 38,000 terminally ill kids served by the foundation often choose a trip to Disneyworld or the Super Bowl, or a visit from a favorite celebrity. But for a child with a lifelong involvement in family fishing and hunting trips, said the foundation’s president, James Gordon, the decision to go on a hunt was appropriate. Anyone who says otherwise is ignorant of the reality behind the hunt — the solitude, the bond between father and son, the respect and admiration for the wilderness — on which this wish was surely based. For a Minnesota boy whose life has been permeated by an appreciation for the outdoors, his wish is only fitting.
It’s no surprise that the foundation was unprepared for the backlash resulting from its decision to provide Erik and his father — with the help of Safari Club International — tickets to Alaska, a rifle, binoculars, hunting apparel and a taxidermist. Spring bear hunting in Alaska is legal, and the hunters hold the appropriate permits, yet animal rights groups across the country, including the Humane Society of the United States, decried the hunt. Humane Society Vice President John Grandy said, “Trophy hunting inflicts needless and undeniable pain, trauma and death on animals for the sake of amusement,” and implored the foundation to send father and dying son on a cameras-only shoot. Another animal-rights group, Ark Trust Inc., even set up an alternative event: a day with actor Pierce Brosnan on the set of his new James Bond film.
Critics of the decision say Erik’s wish is somehow akin to personal revenge, that killing a bear is no way to put the finishing touches on his life. Ark Trust Inc. President Gretchen Wyler said, “It’s amazing to think that someone whose life is about to end chose to extinguish the life of a Kodiak Bear, the largest land carnivore in North America.” Putting the Make-A-Wish Foundation on the defensive, however, is the greatest offense. For an organization that has devoted 16 years and untold hours of energy to making dying children’s last days the best of their lives, the negative attention paid to Make-A-Wish in recent days is blasphemous.
It may be easy for many to lump Erik’s last wish into an evil stalk-and-kill category. We choose instead to wish Erik the best on his hunt. Organizations and individuals who have the Make-A-Wish Foundation in their cross hairs would be wise to do the same.