Ten-year-old Christian Bayer loves fishing and sitting by a crackling campfire, but he has never actually been camping.
"We've never really done the formal camping thing, because of his mobility issues," said his mother, Christi Bayer.
The Casper boy was born with a neurodegenerative condition that reduces his mobility. He walks with a walker and needs help getting around, which makes tent camping difficult.
On Thursday, Make-A-Wish Wyoming surprised Christian with the gift of a recreational vehicle at Sonny's RVs in Evansville. About two dozen people gathered to share in Christian's big moment. His wish to the nonprofit organization, which grants wishes for children who have life-threatening medical conditions, was to go camping with his family near a waterfall.
"The look on his face, he was like, 'Oh, my gosh, my wish is being granted right now!'" said his brother, Isaac Bayer, 19. "I know how much he wants to go and explore different things, and now he can."
The 27-foot-long 2014 Springdale travel trailer with a bunkhouse has plenty of room for Christian; Isaac; their sister Lauren, a 15-year-old who has the same condition as Christian and also uses a walker; Christi; and father Rob. The retail value of the trailer is about $26,000, according to Mike Rone, parts and service manager at Sonny's RVs. It was sold to Make-A-Wish Wyoming for slightly below factory price. Sonny's RVs also tossed in outdoor accessories such as inflatable rafts, a life jacket, camp chairs and much more.
"We've been part of Make-A-Wish for 15 years now," Rone said. "This is our way of helping out the community."
The event will also kick off a 30-day fundraising campaign at Sonny's RVs. For every RV sold, $250 will be donated to Make-A-Wish Wyoming.
"It's a campaign that we're really excited about especially since it was inspired by another wish," said Morgan Legerski, chief executive officer of Make-A-Wish Wyoming. "They have been a great support for Make-A-Wish over the years."
She would like to use the funds to expand the reach of the program, because there could be as many as 20 qualifying kids each year who don't get their wishes granted.
Make-A-Wish America is a national nonprofit organization that grants wishes to children in the U.S. and its territories who have life-threatening medical conditions. The Wyoming chapter, which is based in Casper, grants up to 35 wishes annually, at an average cost of $7,000 per wish, Legerski said.
After the big reveal, the Bayers enjoyed cake with organizers, family and friends and offered many thanks.
"If it's one thing we know, hope is healing," Rob said. "He's so excited and so hopeful."
They had hinted to Christian that there might be some camping in his future. It's been all he talks about, despite recently recovering from surgery.
"His focus shifted from those things to talking about this and thinking about this," Christi said. "That hope has brought healing, not just physically but spiritually."
The Bayers planned to sleep in the RV Thursday night in their driveway. They plan to take their first camping trip next weekend. But first, they need to find a campsite next to a waterfall.