POWELL, Ohio -- A Sailor and his family saw their 11-year-old child fulfill her Make-A-Wish to meet Jack Hanna and get a behind-the-scenes look at the Columbus Zoo Dec. 14.
Lt. Cmdr. David Rogers, who had served as executive officer aboard Virginia-class attack submarine USS Missouri (SSN 780) for the past two years, was there to see his daughter's wish fulfilled by visiting the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium while on leave prior to transferring to his next assignment in Washington, D.C.
"It's been a dream come true for Anna to meet her hero, 'Jungle' Jack Hanna," said Rogers. "She never imagined she would also be able to interact so closely with so many animals, from holding a baby clouded leopard to petting a koala to feeding a rhinoceros. And the people at the Columbus Zoo were just incredible - the zookeepers, docents, and Mr. Hanna himself were all so generous not just with their time but especially their incredible kindness."
Anna's experience started with a stretch limousine ride to the airport, intensified with a boisterous party of volunteers surprising her with posters and mementos at the airport, and was highlighted by four days in Columbus, Ohio.
Anna suffers from cystic fibrosis, which is one of the most common genetic diseases affecting children and young adults. She has already had more than 20 hospitalizations of a week or longer, multiple surgeries, and survived acute kidney and liver failure in 2009.
Anna had submitted her wish to the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 2010, but due to her father's responsibilities on operational sea duty, the family waited until now to be certain they could carry out her wish together. All that extra time and anticipation weren't enough for Anna to dream of all that the Make-A-Wish team would be able to prepare and she now has memories to last a lifetime.
"Anna enjoyed an amazing time with Mr. Hanna, both in the morning watching the polar bears swim and then in the evening when he and his wife, Suzi, made extra time to meet with us again, each hugging Anna and just making our whole family feel special. The Hannas display such inspirational joy and kindness," said Rogers. "It makes you appreciate how blessed we are when people like that serve leading roles in our communities."
The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. Founded in 1980, Make-A-Wish is now the largest wish-granting charity in the world.