8-Year-Old Makes a Wish to Become a Park Ranger
Gabriel Lavan-Ying is from Gainesville, Florida. He is 8 years old and has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. The Make-A-Wish Foundation and the U.S. National Park Service worked together to bring Gabriel’s dream of becoming a park ranger to life.
In June 2014, the groups worked with Gabriel and his family to bring him to Yosemite. Gabriel donned the khaki garb and hat of a Ranger and spent the day doing his appointed duties. He helped the Yosemite Fire Crew put out a forest fire, worked with search and rescue to save an injured hiker, went rafting down the Merced River, and went on naturalist walks through Cook’s Meadow. He was even given his own official parking spot for when he’s old enough to drive.
In a documentary on Gabriel’s experience, his mom noted that the young boy has days where he is an energetic 8-year-old and other days when he is in too much pain. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is affecting his skin, joints, heart and blood vessel walls. His skin is fragile and his joints are overly flexible. According to the Mayo clinic, people with this syndrome have to be careful because they can easily get a cut, and stitches don’t often hold in their fragile skin. Gabriel has the vascular type of Ehlers-Danlos, which means that his aorta and the arteries in his kidneys and spleen could rupture, a potentially fatal event.
At the end of his busy day, Gabriel raised his right hand and took an oath to serve and protect the Yosemite area. The Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher presented Ranger Gabriel with his official badge and a flag that had flown over the park.
“It’s something he’ll tell his favorite doctors about,” his mom said in the documentary short that filmmaker Chris Mckechnie created. The film follows Ranger Gabriel and family on his day in Yosemite. The film (above) was selected by National Geographic to be a part of their Short Film Showcase.
Do you have a favorite Make-A-Wish story? We’d love to hear it.