Triton was just 6 years old when he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of liver cancer, but this adventurous little boy did not let his illness dampen his desire to explore or stifle his newfound love for volcanoes.
For two years before his wish visit, he had wanted to see lava. When his wish granters asked him what the most important parts about his wish would be, Triton responded with great enthusiasm. “Lava! Water! Seeing animals and having fun,” were at the top of his list.
When his wish to see real lava and a volcano was finally ready to be granted, Make-A-Wish Wyoming knew his destination had to be somewhere truly special. With the help of Make-A-Wish Hawaii, his journey to one of the world’s most active volcanoes was set in motion. The night before the trip, Triton and his siblings stayed up late, imagining the journey ahead as his parents listened in from the next room.
The vacation was full of unforgettable moments. Triton got to see and swim with the weird fish he’d dreamed of encountering. The family even came across a moment not many get to experience, as a school of dolphins chose to grace the waters near their boat with their presence.
Triton’s love of snorkeling was born on the trip, and from that point forward he spent most of his time in with his face in the water, snorkel on. He chose to be brave each day as the first traveler to enter the water on the excursion, followed closely by his siblings. Manta rays and sea turtles floated around the family as they snorkeled. From afar Triton saw the lava of an active volcano for the first time during a tour in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. One of his favorite features of the tour was a large tunnel formed entirely by lava and the black sand beaches along the coast. On an island created by volcanoes, this adventurer was completely at home.
“Every day and every aspect of it was exciting,” said Triton’s mom, Jessica. From the flower leis at the airport to the lava tunnels in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and every stop in between, the family was able to spend time healing together. Triton’s mom described the experience as life-changing for the entire family, but especially her Triton.
“It opened up a whole new world” for him, she shared.
A few months after the wish trip, Triton’s family again received news that no family wants to hear: Triton had relapsed with complications from his cancer. But for Triton, this time is different. Hawaii — and the prospect of returning to a state he fell in love with — “is a motivation for him to get better.”
Triton’s wish trip has become the reason to keep fighting for his future. “It was a huge impact for him — I think even more so than we expected it to be,” Jessica said.
Triton and his brother now dream of owning a fishing yacht and returning to Hawaii for good when they are both older. “It gave Triton a different perspective than just sagebrush” and the small town of Hudson, Wyoming.
For now, Triton plays video games in his snorkel gear dreaming of the day he can go back to Hawaii while his shark tooth necklace hangs on his IV tower. His wish showed him a new world of possibilities and gave him the motivation and strength to continue fighting his illness.