Want to read about the wishes that have come true? See that list here!

When we received the news that his eyesight had changed so dramatically we immediately began Ben’s wish list. What did he want to see, where did he want to go, what could we help him experience visually before he lost more sight… One of his therapists explained that as he gets older it will be easier for him to describe things and interact with the sighted world if he has memories of things – like snow, she said, or the ocean or a mountain. And of course beyond the practical logistics of it, we wanted to help Ben have the emotional experience of witnessing this wild and wonderful world!

Some of what Ben wants to see isn’t realistic, either because of practicality or finances. But we still want him to share all his dreams – if it’s something we can’t see in person we’re looking up places online to see videos or photos. Almost every day he pops into our room after bedtime and says, “May I see a photo of a glacier?” or “Can you show me Mount Rushmore?” or “I want to see the Sistine Chapel.”

It takes all my self control to not cry every time he asks me to show him these things.

Anyway, some of Ben’s list makes me laugh – like the Apple store. Others have me curious (a bike store, or chalk under a microscope??) While we can’t make it all happen, here’s what’s remaining on his list of things he hopes to see and experience while he still has as much eyesight as possible. (You can read about the wishes that have come true here and they have been extraordinary beyond our wildest dreams, thanks to the stunning generosity of people near and far. (Thank you. Truly – it’s so inadequate a description of our feelings, but thank you.)

Update Summer 2018:

So, after much pondering and discussion and so much generosity and wonder… Ben says he thinks we did it. He got them all (within reason, see the unlikely ones below!) 😉 He got them all, he has experienced the extraordinary and miraculous and I tear up every single time I think about it, and think about the incredible people that made it happen. Ben talks about his memories from these wish trips every single day, and I think he will for the rest of his life.

He’s still making new visual memories, of course… but thanks to strangers and friends near and far, he’s lived a visual lifetime in just a few short years. Now he’s on to other adventures, big and small

Previous wishes Mom said aren’t so likely, but I still wrote them down to make him feel better:

– The Great Wall of China

– Death Valley (too hot!)

– Japan

– Antarctica

So if you were losing your eyesight what would YOU want to see? We love suggestions! Truly, please share your ideas – even if we can’t make the trip, we can show him online the places you think are best. Leave a comment and tell us what Ben should see!

Ben’s Wish List
c/o Hobby-Q
PO Box 2107
Lake Dallas, TX 75065-2107

Ben and all the kids LOVE postcards so if you want to send one from your hometown or your vacation spot then they would be thrilled. It’s the next best thing to him getting to see those places in person.

Also, go give us ideas here for the NON-vision bucket list: what should Ben try later on that helps him focus on his other senses? We’re loving the fun ideas – it helps Ben get excited about all of the adventures to come when he’s no longer light dependent. (I love that phrase from Thunder Dog! Talk about giving a new perspective on life without sight.) 🙂

395 thoughts on “Wishes”

  1. Mom, I live in Bourg Louisiana ( about 60 miles sw of New Orleans ) . I would have to agree about not going into Nola for mardi gras but in Houma la we are the second largest mardi gras celebration around . If he would like to see mardi gras parades this is the place to go. I would like to contact you about this and a place to watch it if you would be interested . This would not be a fAr drive for the family and I am sure we can work something out . My email is tunbehagen@msn.com also have you comsidered a gofund me account ?

  2. Try contacting your local Lions club, if you have not already. We Lions help out the blind, whatever their needs are and I think a local club, in or near your home city, would love to help out however they can. Perhaps they can help with a fundraiser as well. If you don’t know if there is a local Lions club, go here: https://directory.lionsclubs.org/?language=EN and look up your city. Perhaps if you have a Leos club (a Lions-sponsored club for kids 12-18), contact them as well. They love to help kids and they are excellent at fundraising. Good luck and God bless!

  3. For the northern lights and moose sightings, Maine is an awesome place to go (if you can’t make it to Alaska). The winter is best. I’d also suggest just getting out somewhere DARK and seeing the stars and milky way with a telescope or astronomy binoculars. This website (http://www.jshine.net/astronomy/dark_sky/) shows light pollution in the US. Fortunately, in Texas, it’s easy to get out to some dark places with just a couple hours drive west of the DFW area.

    For the microscope, I’d suggest talking to people at UT Southwestern – there are lots of researchers there who would love to show Ben what different things look like under a microscope. I am a microbiology graduate student in Austin, and I’ve got a USB powered microscope that I use at home – I’m going to take a look at it and see how good the images/video it takes are – maybe this could be helpful to Ben (and fun for all of your kids). As I’m not too far, if the USB scope is interesting to you I can mail it or drive it up to the DFW area. Ben, I hope someday we can grow you new retinas, or make you retinal implants that are as good as human eyes.

  4. re: the Northern Lights. Yes, this is a dream of mine too. Iceland IS ungodly expensive, but you can see them in Canada or Alaska, during the wintertime. There are even hotels to stay at up there that will wake you when the Aurora is up so you can see how beautiful they truly are. Fairbanks would probably be among the cheapest, but they are always predicted *here* http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast

    Best of luck, and yes, also, the Fort Worth Japanese Gardens are better than even the one I saw in San Francisco. Take him there. It’s kind of a shame you missed the cherry blossoms this year, though.

  5. Would he like to see the inside of a radio station? If so, please email me and I will make it happen. We are located in downtown Dallas.

  6. the northern lights can easily be seen in Alaska! I would recommend going in October, when the daylight hours ebb and it doesn’t get so crazy cold. It’s best to try it in the interior (Fairbanks area).

    It’s a domestic ticket and only a few hours from Seattle on Alaska Airlines or Delta.

    Please contact me if you want more info on where to go/stay. I lived there recently for a few months and as an eye care provider, your son’s wishes have touched my heart. I saw the northern lights multiple times out there (and a bunch of moose!) and Alaska is a place I hope everyone gets to see in their lifetime. You and your family will not regret it.

  7. If you are able to make a trip to DC and NYC, you are within easy driving distance of the Hershey’s plant in Pennsylvania (where everyone gets at least one free candy bar) and Niagara Falls. While Hershey’s was fun and sweet, Niagara Falls was almost beyond discription…awesome, euphoric, and enriching physically and emotionally.

    I wish everyone could visit a big falls, like Niagara Falls, at least once in their life. I hope Ben can make that visit while he can see it as well as experience it. It is well worth the sacrifice to make the trip. FYI, with a family, the travel to and from is much easier in an RV.

    In the two big cities, our RV was parked in the outlying areas and we rode in on the trains and subways. Another really neat experience for Texans from a rural area.

  8. Heidi and Family, Read your story in the Nerk Aggravate. I moved from OH to CO about 10 yrs ago, and wanted to note some cool things Ben might cross off his bucket list in a short time here – Large Aquarium w/cool sea critters; tons of prarie dog town right along the roadway, especially coming south from the Denver airport; can touch snow in summertime at Estes Park, while exploring mountains, seeing elk very easily (recommend horseback rental trail ride here too); Garden of the Gods in Col Springs (free walking and car tours, and kids can climb all over EVERYTHING there); dinosaur footprints and fossils at DinoRidge (http://www.dinoridge.org/); a cograil trainride to Pikes Peak. I’m sure there’s more, but if you’re already headed here this month, just wanted to touch upon a few I thot of.

  9. Me, again….if you like to camp, recommend you contact the Estes Park YMCA. They have WONDERFUL campgrounds, with cabins, horseback, outdoor activities, a lodgehouse – it would be a great, extremely budget-friendly way to see the mountains out here.

  10. I second another comment about White Samds national Park in New Mexoco. It is beautiful and fun to slide down the big dunes. It is however very bright. You can hit Carslbad Cavrens on the way wihich is amazing. Coming back you can stop by The McDonald observatory for a star party. When we went we saw the moon up blade and the rings of Saturn and more. Then from there you can hit Marfa to see the Marfa lights.

  11. Ben’s story had me in tears! What a sweet boy. Where can we donate money to his wish list? Is there a Go Fund Me page or something similar! Let’s make that happen! 🙂

  12. Hi Ben & your amazing family!

    I just heard your story and wanted to share some places in Arizona with you that I can’t stop thinking of after visiting them last year:

    1. It’s already on your list, but I hope you are able to make it to the Grand Canyon. It is such an amazing place that can have such a profound impact on your soul.

    2. If you are able to, take a helicopter tour of the canyon. Or even visit Havasupai Falls (you can fly into the Reservation and hike 2 miles to see it). There are 3 massive waterfalls there, with the most beautiful turquoise color – you will definitely remember that color.

    3. Nearby – only a few hours drive- is Sedona, AZ, another beautiful place. The drive between Sedona and Prescott, AZ is also one of the most amazing 60 miles of road you’ll ever take (Hwy 89A).

    Best wishes!

  13. Ben’s family: create a Kickstarter crowdsourcing page to start funding these adventures! It is easier than you think. Folks want to help donate, and although that was never your intention, find a way for folks to donate that doesn’t require a check in the mail. Paypal. Something. If you have questions on getting started, contact me directly! Let the public help you achieve more of these goals. 🙂

  14. Dear Heidi, I work for a major airline which can help with airfare and I have connections with timeshares which can help with hotels. I would love to help in anyway I can to get Ben to further his list. Please email me when you get a chance Junbug7777@aol.com.

  15. I just saw a report on my local news about Ben’s list. Having been to many of the places on the list I can understand his desire to see these things! I know that so many people would like to help make these dreams come true but there is no way to give online through your blog page or the FB page. PayPal has an easy way to do this with a “Donate” button. Please do something quick so we can all help Ben see his dreams come true!! The link for the PayPal button is: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donate-intro-outside You have my email so feel free to contact me if you need help. I’ve assisted others in raising funds for various projects and it works great!

  16. I am from San Antonio and would totally encourage checking out the river-walk. There is also a wild life safari that you can drive through called Natural Bridges Wildlife Ranch which also has Caverns to explore. It is super cool. This story was very touching! I hope he has a wonderful time and can experience the things he is dreaming of! Also the Circuits of America Raceway in Austin is really awesome.

  17. Hi! My family owns an (private) exotic ranch outside of San Antonio and if you find your way down here, please contact me as your family is welcome to come spend the day with us. We have bass, perch and catfish the kids can fish, 2 zonkeys, 9 donkeys, 2 longhorns, 1 Watusi, a cat food eating fat goat and a spoiled ibex that will eat out of your hands. We also have zebras, wildebeests, several species of smaller antelope and white elk. Most children love to come out and help me feed.

  18. You don’t have to go to Japan! There is a game/software company called GearBox in Frisco!

  19. I see video game company on the veto list, but wanted to point out that there are a good amount of game studios in the Dallas area that would probably give you a tour! Gearbox Software, iD Software, Robot Entergainment, and Zynga are all around here, it may be worth trying to get into contact with them.

    Best wishes to you, Ben, and your family!

  20. Heidi,

    I just read your story, and I live in San Antonio, there is no charge here to visit the Alamo and the Riverwalk, I would love to invite you and your family down IH-35, to beautiful San Antonio, we could take care of a hotel for a couple of days for you and your family to experience San Antonio…

  21. I saw your story on HLN today and was very moved by Ben wanting to imprint as many visual memories as he can. My mother and two of her brothers are legally blind and one of her brothers is losing the little sight he has. I spent my life among blind people as my mother and uncle worked for the NJ Commission for the Blind. Although the loss is devastating, blind people can live full and satisfying lives.
    Please set up a donation mechanism on this website so that people like myself can help make some of Ben’s wishes come true. That said, if you come north to Mt Rushmore in South Dakota and want to drive a little bit and to visit the badlands on your way to the Glaciers, we can put you up for a few days in Eastern Montana!

  22. Hello Pierce Family,
    I work at The Sheraton Gunter hotel in San Antonio about a block off the river. We would love to host your family for a stay so that Ben and your family can see the Riverwalk and the Alamo. I know that The San Antonio tourism community will welcome you with open arms and we will create an amazing experience for your family. Contact me so that we can work this out.

  23. Please let us know when a site is set-up to help with donations to make Ben’s wishes come true. Both of my son’s were premies (my first lived for 23 days) and my second is getting ready to graduate college (he was 23 weeks early too). My son suffered some eye issues too, but thankfully, has been able to keep his sight. I am always touched by stories of premature babies who beat the odds and I know Ben will accomplish so much with or without his sight. Again, please update when we can donate to his wish list through the internet. God’s blessings.

    Tracey Burch

  24. Dear Ben, Remember ALL the COLORS you can, God Bless You! Your new friend,Patricia

  25. Hi Heidi, What an amazing little boy you have. I was truly touched by his emotion while watching CNN. I live in Nashville, TN. We have so much here for him to experience. The Parthenon @ Centinial Park, Vanderbilt university with hi-tech microscopes, purity I’ve cream, titans football, predators hockey, a zoo with anteaters & kangaroos, elephant sanctuary, horseback trail riding on breath talking trails, first visual art museum, family owned farms that would live to show him how things grow, an arts center with broadway plays, Nashville ballets nutcracker, googoo candy factory, planetariums, grand ole opry…I will work on some things & get back to you. Smiles!

  26. Heidi,
    We live in Albuquerque and want to help. Let me know when you will be heading this way. I would like to get you tickets for the Sandia Peak Tramway (more info at http://www.sandiapeak.com/) and can probably get you a hotel for free when you are in town. Please contact me with details.

  27. I have a beautiful 4 bedroom town home @ the canyons ski resort in Park City Utah. I would love for you to use it this spring if it works for you. It is available until June 23 and then is rented for the summer. It would also be available in the fall which is a gorgeous time in Park City. It would be an honor to have you all as my guests.

    Please let me know if you would like to come to Park City, UT!

    The Best to all of you,

  28. If you make a trip to Nashville to Opryland I suggest Huntsville Alabama and Space Camp! Its about two hours south of Nashville. My brother works for NASA and could maybe help with making some arrangements. The Space and Rocket Center is awesome.

  29. We would love to have Ben and his family visit the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.
    Please email me at your convenience.

    Philip Gonzalez
    Director of Marketing

  30. Our son Ryan showed us the story about Ben. We are very touched. We saw he wanted to go to the Fort Worth Zoo. We would love to take care of this wish for him and his family. Our son is a 24 week miracle baby also. He is now twelve and wears glasses and has hearing aids. It has been an incredible journey. Ryan would love to meet Ben at the zoo, if possible. Just let us know when.
    Michelle, Jim and Ryan McCabe 🙂 🙂

  31. Consider gofundme.com. I know a few that have set up accounts there. Simple to set up and simple to donate. They only charge a nominal fee.

  32. Hi Heidi,
    unless your family have already been, I think Ben would love to go to Oahu, Hawaii. I took my granddaughter and we had a ball; it’s simply beautiful. He would have quite an experience seeing, and learning more about Pearl Harbor, visiting the USS Arizona Memorial, as well as many other great sites. The Dole Pineapple Plantation was so much fun – especially the train ride, and walking through the worlds largest maze as documented by the Guinness Book Of World Records. The Polynesian Cultural Center, http://www.polynesianculturalcenter.com, is very educational as well. There, he can learn much about Polynesian life, and it also provides hand on experiences. The Luau, and evening show – Ha: breath of Life – was spectacular. The island itself is packed with a lifetime of memories.

  33. We would like to treat Ben and his family for a VIP tour of Galveston, Moody Gardens with a personal up close with live penguins and a Fishing trip on our fishing Yacht August Moon, a day he will never forget……contact William Simpson

  34. I have a beautiful blue & gold macaw named Papi. I would love to at least send a few of his beautiful feathers. I am just outside of Houston and would love to meet yall!

  35. My kids 10 & 7 were touched by your story and wanted to add these suggestions. International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, NM we think is a must see. My 7 year old said the US Lexington in Corpus. We wish you all tons of luck

  36. You can see the Northern Lights in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. If you’re lucky you might also spot a moose.

  37. In San Antonio, close to the Alamo, you have the River Walk with tour boats, a Children’s Museum, and the Tower of America with a revolving restaurant and an observation level with telescopes. The SA Zoo, Japanese Gardens, and Witte Museum are close together. SA also has a Six Flags and Sea World Parks. The 5 Spanish Missions and other Museums. 4 or more Universities. Within 50 miles there are 4 caverns, Cascade, Cave Without a Name, Natural Bridge, and Wonder Cave which you can skip or Wonder why you went. At New Braunfels ( 30+miles from SA) the Comal River starts from springs in Landa Park. Seeing water bubbling from the ground is still amazing to me. I grew up outside of Abilene. The Comal is only 3 miles long and then runs into the Guadalupe (which starts above Kerrville which is north of SA) and both rivers are great to float in rented tubes or your own.
    If you can get the use of an RV it would be great to spend a week at a time visiting and area. Some one suggested Fredricksburg and Enchanted Rock both a day trip from SA. The Rock is a part of the Texas Park system and you can get a year family pass and then all are free.

  38. Have you contacted Make-A-Wish? I would hope Ben’s condition would warrant a wish! Also have you gone out to Go Fund Me! This is an on-line fund raising site for worthy causes and I cannot think there would be another cause anymore worthy thaen Ben’s!

  39. Have him read this book – Erik gradually lost his sight and learned to adapt and do many great adventures including Mt Everest.

    Touch the Top of the World: A Blind Man’s Journey to Climb Farther than the Eye Can See:
    Erik Weihenmayer (Author)

  40. I think you should take him to Disney world! I just went and it is amazing, and at the animal kingdom you can take a safari where you feel like you are in actually in Africa. Also there are some amazing sand dunes somewhere around Kitty Hawk (You should visit where the wright brothers flew the first time too if you went!).

  41. Hi Heidi

    Have you contacted Make-A-Wish? I know they grant wishes for chronically I’ll children, but I believe Ben’s situation would warrant a wish. Also there is an on-line fund raising service called Go Fund Me! We set up an account for my grandson who is chronically ill and has needed treatments that weren’t covered under insurance, funds were raised through Go Fund Me. Our prayers go out to Ben and your family!

  42. The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado is beautiful and about a 12 hour drive from here. The Rio Grande River runs at the foot of the dunes. It is shallow and you can wade through it. The Sangre de Christo Mountains are right there and there is wildlife to see. This trip could meet several of Ben’s wishes! These are largest dunes in North America.
    Ben didn’t mention horses but if he is interested, I have a friend in Eastern Oklahoma who runs an Equine Sanctuary with approx. 40 horses. 6 of these horses are blind and one of them was an Arkansas Prison Guard horse who went blind at a young age. His name is Stevie and he is a sweet gentle animal and walks around the property keeping the grass short:). All of the horses are loving and loved. If Ben is interested, I will ask my friend if we could make a trip out to the ranch. I would be willing to provide transportation.

  43. You guys should take him to Mall of America in Bloomington, MN. It is incredible! I’ve been there twice (I live in St. Louis) & both times I was there I didn’t even get to cover all of it. The last time I was there was back in March & I only got to go there for a day because we were on a strict time schedule & it’s so big that we couldn’t even cover 1/4 in a 6 hour time span. It is crazy! They also have a humongous Lego Store up there that Ben would probably like to see. You guys should also try to make your way out here to STL, (The Arch, we have one of the best zoos here also, Ted Drewes, he would LOVE city museum (heck, I am 22 & I still love that place!), Six Flags (my aunt said we have a better one than MA does), the Spaghetti Factory, & The Rootbeer Factory. We have tons of cool stuff here! Also, maybe Las Vegas??? I hope Ben gets to do a lot of stuff on his wish list & I hope I gave you guys some more ideas that you could possibly take him to do.

  44. Scott, only because I’ve not been there myself and my children in a large crowd & an unknown city makes me nervous. I can imagine a little one wandering off, Ben having trouble navigating, and me being a basket case as I try to keep tabs on them all. 🙂 But you are right – Paris with my kids doesn’t scare me, but NYC does and that seems odd!

  45. NYC is very safe – I’ve lived here my whole life! Nothing bad has every happened. It’s chaotic but it’s certainly doable, and there is so much to see here. Take him to Times Square (perhaps not at night because of his light sensitivity), the Museum of Natural History to see the life size whale model and the dinosaurs, the Met to see more great works of art up close, take the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty, the view from the Empire State Building, Central Park (I recommend the Alice in Wonderland statue in particular; kids go crazy over that)…

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