Nine-year-old Ben Pierce is going blind. But thanks to his family and strangers, he crossed one breathtaking sight off his bucket list of things to see before his vision fades.
The Dallas boy travelled to Fairbanks, Alaska with his parents and five siblings for a once-in-a-lifetime trip last week – thanks to the kindness of a Seattle-area dad.
Alaska Airlines pilot Chris Cice learned about Ben’s northern lights wish after his daughter returned from school and told him about a Texas boy who wanted to see the world before going completely blind.
“I said let’s take a look at this list and see what we can do,” Cice told Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. So he contacted Ben’s mom Heidi and the two planned the surprise trip north to Fairbanks, unbeknownst to the rest of the Pierce family.
And when they finally got there, Ben was surprised again.
“We woke him up in the middle of the night, and we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to see the lights, but Alaska delivered,” said Heidi.
The Texan family was awestruck by the iridescent auroral displays.
“It’s really beautiful and pretty,” Ben told NBC News. “It’s like water colours going across the sky.”
Ben's vision problems stem from being born four months early at one pound six ounces. His eyelids were fused at this time of his birth, which posed retinal development problems. Doctors were concerned about his chances of survival.
At two-and-a-half months, Ben underwent eye surgery to temporarily fix his vision. But as Ben gets older, the scarring over his eyes gets worse, causing him to lose a little bit more of his sight every time he grows.
Earlier this year, Ben’s bucket list went viral. It currently includes outstanding items that range from visiting a toy factory, the Sistine Chapel, to watching a Weird Al concert.
“I think it’s really helping him cope and see some of the amazing bright spots and all the kindness that has been coming through the situation,” Heidi told HuffPost Live in an earlier interview about the list.
She said the whole family has been involved in preparing Ben for blindness with blindfolds and walking-cane training. His brothers and sisters even pooled their allowances to help Ben cross off as many items off his list as possible.
“We’re optimistic,” she said. “He’s going to tackle this with his normal energy and passion.”
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