Ucluelet had such a good time granting a kid’s wish last month that the community is planning to do it all over again in August.
Sebastian Lavendt, a terminally ill 13 year-old, traveled roughly 8,000 kilometres from Denmark to Ukee with his family to fulfill his dream of catching a salmon and, thanks to collaboration between the Make a Wish Foundation and local businesses in Ucluelet, that dream came true.
“Wishes are as unique as the kids who make the wishes,” the Make-A-Wish Foundation BC and Yukon chapter’s communications director Stuart Chase told the Westerly News. “Sebastian’s wish was simply to go fishing for salmon in Canada. Once he started researching his own wish, he realized BC’s west coast was the place to come, and it quickly narrowed down to Ucluelet as having all the other details he wanted.”
Once Ucluelet was pegged as the destination, Denmark’s chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation reached out to their counterparts in BC to hash out the logistics of making Lavendt’s dream a reality and Stuart said, both groups were thrilled to find the local business community was eager to assist.
“The great thing with us is, when we call to any organization to say we’ve got a kid who wants to come to you, people are willing to open their hearts and frankly their wallets as well,” Chase said.
“That’s what your local businesses did in Ucluelet. They came forward and they came up big-time to help this family.”
Stuart added community support is essential to making dreams come true.
“In terms of funding these wishes, because wishes are not free, we rely solely on donations from individuals and community groups and from businesses,” he said. “It goes a long way to help stretch the dollars to make sure those wish experiences are above and beyond every time…We deeply value the connections we have with communities and businesses and their willingness to support these wishes.”
The Make-A-Wish group reached out to Natural Elements Vacation Rentals Inc. who helped set up Lavendt’s fishing trip and accommodations for the family and reached out to the community for help.
“That’s when the community as a whole really started stepping up and putting out all these offers,” the company’s co-owner Brock Johansen told the Westerly. “We were just amazed. It was crazy…It was a warm feeling. We really felt the support pouring out.”
The community’s support turned Lavendt’s wish experience into much more than just a fishing trip as Johansen and his team collected gift baskets and gift certificates from the local business community ensuring the family would essentially have an all-inclusive Ucluetian experience.
The bounty was put on display alongside a welcome sign at the vacation rental the Lavendts were staying at to ensure a happy arrival.
After settling in, it was time to get down to business and local fishing guide Ken Lewis was tasked with helping Lavendt hook his dream salmon.
“He was a wonderful little man,” Lewis told the Westerly. “He was a great kid and he was a lot of fun.”
Lewis said it took three days before Lavendt was able to reel one in, but when it happened, the wait was worth it.
“We had salmon on the first couple days too, but we’d get them 20 feet from the boat and they give their little head a shake and they’re gone,” he said.
“On the third day, I was like we’re staying until we get one. It happened about 1 p.m. In the afternoon so we’d already been fishing for 5.5 hours. It was tough but I told his dad we’re staying out here until I get this kid a fish. That’s all there is to it….I just wanted to make sure that his wish came true.
“There are times where you get a little discouraged fishing, but I was determined to make that happen and I’m really, really happy that I did…It was probably the most important experience I’ve had.”
The Make a Wish Foundation is preparing to send another fish wish Ucluelet’s way as a 12 year-old from New York would also like to get his hands on a wild West Coast salmon.
Anyone looking to help out in any way is encouraged to reach out to info@naturalelementsrental.