Imagine walking beside an elephant towards the river, listening to birdsong in a tropical rainforest, as you feel the earth shake with every step of the elephant beside you. That’s exactly what wish kid Maureen, 18, of South Burlington, wished to experience!
Maureen, and her family, recently returned from a week at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort in Chiang Rai, Thailand, where Maureen spent her time working alongside veterinarians and mahouts (elephant trainers) in learning how to train these gentle giants through a specialist course.
Maureen: The idea of working with elephants all really came from a book my mom read and then gave me to read a few years ago, called “Leaving Time” by Jodi Picoult. The book heavily featured elephants, which were an animal I didn’t know a whole lot about before reading it. That book made me realize how beautiful and intelligent they really are and it really inspired me to want to work with them in person.
Wish Mom Laurie, Wish Dad Jonathan, and Wish Sister Kelly: Watching Maureen immersed in work with elephants was our greatest joy. Maureen’s dream has always been to work with animals, and Make-A-Wish Vermont made her life-long dream become a real-life experience. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to watch Maureen find her passion, and to work alongside and learn from both the scientific team, and the veterinary team. This amazing experience confirmed Maureen’s vision for the future, and she is actively pursuing her goal of working with animals.
Maureen: My favorite part of my wish was being able to be so close to the elephants. I couldn’t pick just one experience working with them that was my favorite – I was absolutely ecstatic to be doing all of it (although giving the elephants baths was fun!) All of the elephants really had their own unique sort of personality that came out as you spent time with them.
One individual elephant that was particularly fun was Ying Luck, a 6-year-old female, who was actually the first elephant that we got to meet there. She was definitely your typical 6-year-old…curious about the world, what she could get in to, and what general mischief she could keep herself occupied with next. She was also very, very sweet. Watching her interact with her environment and peel her bananas was one of my favorite things to see in the morning.
In addition to working with elephants at Anantara, Maureen and her family spent a day touring the city of Chiang Rai, which is near the borders of Laos and Myanmar.
Maureen: The most interesting thing about Thailand (besides the native wildlife) was the culture and language. I didn’t know anything about Thailand before this trip. The people were so friendly and patient with my attempts to learn the Thai language. It was really interesting to see families of 4 on a single motorbike riding around in the streets of the cities, and to see the beautiful country with rice fields surrounded by mountains.
The Family couldn’t choose any one moment that was their favorite of the trip – there were too many wonderful things to experience! However, the elephants were the stars of Maureen’s wish and made everyone’s time in Thailand truly special and memorable.
Wish Mom Laurie, Wish Dad Jonathan, and Wish Sister Kelly: Walking with the elephants, riding the elephants, washing the elephants, feeding the elephants – generally being with the elephants was incredible. We thanked Maureen every day for bringing us to Thailand. It was an AMAZING trip of a lifetime.