When You Wish Upon a Wolf

When I was 12, I was diagnosed with cancer and survived three years of intensive chemotherapy treatments at Johns Hopkins Hospital. I was given a second chance at life, and years later Yellowstone gave me an opportunity to give back to another young person who was suffering.

A kid named Douglas had asked the Make-A-Wish Foundation to fulfill his life-long dream of seeing a wolf in the wild. The organization, which arranges unforgettable experiences for kids with life-threatening progressive, degenerative, or malignant conditions, asked me if I would be his guide, representing the Yellowstone Association Institute. I jumped at the chance.

I met Douglas's family in Mammoth Hot Springs early one May morning. Douglas, his three brothers, and his parents were ready to see a wolf. As hard as it can be to pinpoint a wolf upon request, I did my best. We toured the Northern Range and saw many animals that day. It was the Hellroaring wolf pack that made it for us. From an elevated pullout, we overlooked the expanse of the Hellroaring Creek drainage. The wolves had killed an elk earlier that morning. However, some of the younger wolves were still curious about some nearby cow elk. Their half-hearted chase began, and our spotting scopes gave us a grand view from our vantage point.

It was hard to top that chance wolf experience. Nonetheless, it was truly an awe-inspiring moment when the view opened to the Lamar Valley as we continued our tour. Douglas, his family, and I enjoyed a wonderful adventure. I trust that day in Yellowstone National Park will be a memory for young Douglas that will last him a lifetime. Nature can be the salvation, if at least only mental salvation, for those in need.

For more information:
Make-A-Wish Foundation of America: wish.org
MacNeil Lyons: macneillyonsimages.com
Yellowstone Association Institute: yellowstoneassociation.org

MacNeil Lyons is a resident instructor for the Yellowstone Association Institute and a professional photographer. He has a degree in recreation and parks management from West Virginia University.