At age nine, Ben Pierce has seen more of the world than most Americans. He has traveled to Alaska, Oklahoma, Los Angeles and Arizona in the last four weeks alone—and he’s far from done.
Next week he heads to Walt Disney World, and in February he’s off to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Then London and Paris. Pierce’s to-see list keeps expanding and his parents Kit and Heidi are scrambling to check off each request in the months ahead.
They want him to see as much as possible before his world goes dark.
Ben Pierce collecting a meaningful memory to store on a recent visit to the Grand Canyon. (Photo: Ben’s Wish List/Facebook)
Pierce, who lives near Dallas, is slowly losing his eyesight due to a condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), a disease of the eye that affects prematurely-born babies. (Pierce was born four months early, weighing just 22 ounces). When he lost his peripheral vision last year, his parents asked Pierce to write down his wish list of places he’d like to visit.
“These would be ‘visual memories’ that he would remember” long after his vision is gone, Heidi Pierce told Yahoo Health. “Ben is aware of what’s happening to him. He’ll come into the room and say ‘My eyes are changing. I see more spots. Everything is fuzzy.’”
Pierce’s bucket list includes Las Vegas, snorkeling, attending a “Weird Al” Yankovic concert and exploring the Redwood Forests in California. He’s already been to Legoland, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, a candy factory, the beach and an Apple Store.
The Pierce family in Turner Falls, Oklahoma. (Ben’s Wish List/Facebook)
“He had never been to the mall and thought the Apple Store was a magical place,” Heidi explained. “The employees at the store surprised him by clapping and cheering when he walked in. Ben said it was ‘the friendliest place on Earth.’”
Of course, not every wish can be granted. The Great Wall of China was scratched after Heidi and Kit went over the finances with Ben. Thankfully, many of the trips Ben, his parents, and his five siblings have taken over the past year have been donated, either in the form of airline miles or hotel bookings. (More on that, here).
Backlit by the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights.(Photo: Ben’s Wish List/Facebook)
“We get emails almost daily from people who want to donate,” said Heidi. “We’ve been so lucky and now we’re paying it forward. We’re encouraging people to make donations to help other kids.”
The Pierces, who home school their six children (ages 12-4), point out that Ben’s siblings are always a big part of the adventures. “All of these experiences are for the whole family,” added Heidi. “They’re never jealous or feel left out. This is really scary and the kids are really sad for him.”
And Ben realizes just how fortunate his life has been.
“He hugs and tells us he loves us every night,” said Heidi. “He is so grateful.”