News And Field Notes: A.J. GETS HIS WISH - August 3, 2014

This past August, my wife Sally and I had the privilege of photographing a very special event.

Just down the street from us here in Flagstaff, Arizona, is an 8-year old boy named A.J., who has spinal muscular atrophy. Being like many other young boys, A.J. likes to get out and explore, but being confined to a motorized wheelchair, there was one place he couldn’t explore…up in the trees. Thanks to a doctor’s recommendation, A.J. was made a candidate for Make-A-Wish, an organization known for granting wishes to children with life threatening medical conditions.

A.J. had one wish and that was for a tree house like those built by Pete Nelson of Nelson Treehouse and Supply on the Animal Planet show “Treehouse Masters.” Thanks to the hard work of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, A.J. got his wish.

On August 3rd, months of planning came together. We met with the production crew, and staff from Make-A-Wish. We photographed the “behind-the-scenes” action as the production crew filmed the interviews with the Make-A-Wish people, and as they prepared to surprise A.J. and grant him his wish.

We then did our best impersonation of a special ops team as we made our way to A.J.’s home. We didn’t want to tip-off the neighbors and above all else we need to maintain the element of surprise. Sneaking up through his yard, Pete along with the 4 camera teams for the production company took up their positions, with me in tow.

Finally the moment had arrived. Pete went to the front door of A.J.’s family’s home and rang the door bell. At this point I’ll get pretty emotional, but the expression on A.J.’s face when he saw Pete was priceless. I’m going to let the photos do the talking from this point forward.

Treehouse, Masters, Make A Wish, AJ, Pete Nelson, Boy, photo

The crew of Treehouse Masters in a planning session the day before meeting A.J. Photo © copyright by Adam Schallau.

Treehouse, Masters, Make A Wish, AJ, Pete Nelson, Boy, photo

Pete shares his plan for sneaking up the hill to A.J.'s home. Photo © copyright by Adam Schallau.

Treehouse, Masters, Make A Wish, AJ, Pete Nelson, Boy, photo

A.J. sees Pete Nelson of Treehouse Masters for the first time and knows his wish is about to come true. Photo © copyright by Adam Schallau.

Treehouse, Masters, Make A Wish, AJ, Pete Nelson, Boy, photo

A.J. listens as Pete describes the treehouse he is going to build for AJ. Photo © copyright by Adam Schallau.

Treehouse, Masters, Make A Wish, AJ, Pete Nelson, Boy, photo

Pete meets A.J.'s family and one of the team members from Make-A-Wish. Photo © copyright by Adam Schallau.

Treehouse, Masters, Make A Wish, AJ, Pete Nelson, Boy, photo

Pete is sharing his plans for the treehouse with A.J. Those plans included a ramp over 100 feet long built by local firefighters. The ramp, built to ADA standards, would allow A.J. to reach his treehouse with his wheelchair. Photo © copyright by Adam Schallau.

Treehouse, Masters, Make A Wish, AJ, Pete Nelson, Boy, photo

A candid moment between Pete and A.J. as they share their love for treehouses. Photo © copyright by Adam Schallau.

Treehouse, Masters, Make A Wish, AJ, Pete Nelson, Boy, photo

Pete chats with A.J. about his dream treehouse. Photo © copyright by Adam Schallau.

P.s.

I’d like to thank the Make-A-Wish Foundation and A.J.’s family for allowing us to be a part of such a special moment. It was truly an honor to be part of this. I’d also like to thank Pete Nelson of Nelson Treehouse and Supply for his kindness and generosity, and yes he is as nice in person as he is on camera. We also need to acknowledge the support of the production crew. It was awesome to work alongside you and thanks for lunch! Lastly, we have thank the our local firefighters of the Highlands Fire District that spent nearly 2 weeks building a 108 foot long wheelchair ramp for A.J.’s treehouse. These are some of the same guys that helped protect our neighborhood just 3 months earlier when the Slide Fire came with 3 miles of it. Thank you for what you have done for our community.

Posted in News and tagged Make A Wish, Treehouse Masters.