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The tale of two young entomologists

Alexander and Bradon share a passion for bugs. © Theresa Bertagnole

“ It was amazing to see how that trip had been used to influence another boy in his life’s work. ”

- Teresa, Bradon's mom

When wish recipient Alexander was a toddler, he constantly drew little round doodles. Eventually, his parents realized that he was drawing bugs. As soon as he was able, Alexander began catching and pinning bugs for his own insect collection.

When wish child Bradon was just three years old, he became obsessed with bugs. He began to hunt for them, learn about them and read everything about them he could get his hands on. His parents thought it was just a phase, but it’s never gone away. For as long as he can remember, Bradon has dreamt of becoming an entomologist.

Two boys, born 13 years apart, destined to experience hardship and be united as a result of it. 

Alexander was five years old when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and Bradon was a year older when he was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy at seven.

During these difficult times, neither boy lost interest in bugs. And both had a bright spot to look forward to: their wishes.

In 2001, Alexander wished to go bug hunting in the rainforest. He wanted to see the bugs in their natural habitat and explore species that only live in the rainforest.

On his wish trip, Alexander collected insects, including his prized Blue Morpho butterfly. He worked alongside entomologists and even had a newly discovered sweat bee—Augochlora Alexanderi—named after him.

Alexander’s wish stuck with him. He went on to study environmental science at Central Washington University, where he turned his passion for bugs into a career. “I realized I wanted to protect the insects and biological life that I was always interested in when I was younger,” said Alexander.

Fourteen years after Alexander’s wish came true, Bradon followed in Alexander’s footsteps. He wished to go on a bug safari in the rainforest and work alongside entomologists.

When Bradon’s wish granters were planning his wish trip, they learned some exciting news. Alexander was back in Panama, studying with the same scientists who had hosted him on his wish trip years earlier.

Two wishes. 14 years apart. Two lives impacted forever.

The two wish families connected and bonded over the two wishes. Alexander even talked to Bradon and told him what he could expect on the trip. While Alexander’s family shared about the impact of his wish, Bradon’s family envisioned a similar future. At the heart of it all was a shared enthusiasm for bugs.

On his trip, Bradon took thousands of photos. He saw entomologists hard at work—both in the field and in the lab—and saw that he can still work as an entomologist, even when his mobility becomes limited.

Neither could’ve expected that their wish trip would have such a profound impact on their lives. Not only did Alexander and Bradon fulfill their lifelong wishes, but they also jump-started their life’s work and found an unlikely friendship, 14 years in the making.

Pictured from left: Alexander, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and Bradon, Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

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1 Comment

Walker Jones

As a Ph.D. entomologist, who loved those little thing as a very young man, I honor these kids and would love to help them in any way I can.

January 13, 2016 - 6:36 PM

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