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Joel's wish to go fly-fishing in Alaska, 1989

Joel Then and Now

“ Fly-fishing in Alaska was the break I needed from reality. ”

- Joel, Adult Wish Recipient

Joel's wish to go fly-fishing in Alaska was granted in 1989 when the Make-A-Wish® Colorado mission was to grant wishes to terminally-ill children. Joel overcame his condition and is now a happy, healthy 39-year-old living in Denver.

Like most 15-year-old boys, Joel loved the outdoors, especially fishing. But living with acute lymphoid leukemia made simple tasks like fishing, one of Joel’s favorite past times, quite difficult. On top of that, Joel also needed a bone marrow transplant and was constantly in pain and fatigued. However, thoughts and daydreams of a peaceful lake full of fish kept Joel at ease during the hard times in life.

After being referred to Make-A-Wish® Colorado in 1989, Joel’s wish to go on a fly-fishing trip to Alaska was something that would give him hope, strength and joy.

Just nine months before his Alaska fishing trip, Joel received his bone marrow transplant, but despite the discomfort and side effects, Joel enjoyed his wish to the absolute fullest.

“For my wish we flew to Bristol Bay, Alaska, for trout fishing,” said Joel. “Even though I wasn’t feeling extremely well, I had the best experience fishing with my father and some local experts.”

During his wish, Joel, his dad and the Alaska fishing guides boarded a float plane to travel around Bristol Bay to find the secret fishing spots. Joel caught lots of fish, and greatly enjoyed the experience.

“Visiting Alaska for the fly-fishing trip was something that will stick with me forever,” said Joel. “I was able to relax and get lost in the scenery. I also got to see bears floating downstream in the same river I fished in…pretty cool.”

When Joel was referred to Make-A-Wish Colorado, the mission was slightly different than today. Rather than granting wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions, Make-A-Wish Colorado only granted wishes to children with terminal medical conditions. The odds of a long and happy life were stacked against him, but Joel found the strength to fight through his medical condition and eventually reached a turning point in his fight when he went into remission.

Today, Joel is 39 years old, cancer free and works in medical sales. He will also be married in the fall. Fly-fishing is still a favorite hobby, but with an extra special meaning now.

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