A very sharky wish

Posted on January 15, 2009
Written by: Shark Savers

The Make a Wish Foundation was started in 1980 as a means to enrich the lives of children with life threatening illnesses. In January, fifteen year old Lizzie Sautter visited the Bimini Biological Field Station (Sharklab) as part of a very special wish.

Lizzie didn't want to meet a movie star or go to Disney, she wanted to work with marine biologists and get up close to her favorite animals....SHARKS!! I was asked to photograph the events and jumped at the chance.

Lizzie and her family spent 5 days at the field station getting true hands on experience with some amazing animals. Lizzie took shark handling class with Doc Gruber, tagged a near 3m tiger shark and snorkeled with Caribbean reef sharks. She was also fortunate enough to trek through the mangroves of Bimini and see a great hammerhead.

Although it was Lizzie's dream, her family truly embraced the adventure and showed no hesitation in getting their hands dirty...or should I say wet. Mom, dad and sister all swam with the sharks, handled the Bimini boa and even held juvenile lemon sharks, something they all admitted that they never expected to do in their life.

make a wish 2
Doc showing Lizzie a juvenile nurse shark

There was a lot of laughter and smiles didn't leave anyone's face for long. The staff and volunteers at the lab experience some pretty remarkable things on a daily basis, but this was something really special. The Sautter family journeyed to Bimini to make a dream come true, but we all consider ourselves to be the lucky ones.

Getting to see the smile on Lizzie's face as she tagged her first shark was one of the most rewarding moments of my life. I have been around the world and back sharing sharks with people, but never have I seen a smile like Lizzie's or tears of joy like those from her mom.

The future of sharks is in the hands of people like Lizzie, people who are truly passionate about these animals. It is also exciting to see a young female wanting to get involved, choosing shark science over the endless options she had for her wish. I am sure Lizzie will return to the lab and again bring that special smile and positive energy. Thank you to the Sautter family for letting us be apart of these precious moments.