Catching up with cheetahs

Over the years, Make-A-Wish Connecticut has been consistent in granting the wishes of local kids, but none of it would be possible without the help of everyone within the community. As the need for wishes grows, so does the need for continued generosity. With 70% of wishes involving air travel, the miles donated will be extremely beneficial for the wish kids. The HAN Network is supporting Make-A-Wish Connecticut with the HAN Network Wishes in Flight Campaign. With a goal of 300,000 donated airline miles, you can help make travel wishes come true.

An adult cheetah weighs an average of 160 pounds and can run at speeds up to 75 mph, and the species is classified as vulnerable.

Wish kid Devin Banks, age 10, could tell you all of these facts and more about cheetahs — he completed a school project on them at age 4. Devin loved researching cheetahs and went on to learn everything he could about his new favorite animal, going so far as to have adopted a cheetah through the World Wildlife Foundation last year. But his wish was to go see them in real life.

“I like Cheetahs because they’re fast, really fast,” Devin wrote in a letter that addressed why this was his wish.

Now a third grader in Weston, Devin is excitedly preparing for his trip to South Africa to see his favorite animals in their natural habitat. After all he has been through, Devin, and his mom, dad, and sister, were blown away when his doctor said he could embark on this journey of a lifetime. Their adventure will begin with a tour to the Cape Peninsula before continuing on to Cheetah Outreach, a conservation center where Devin will be able to learn more about his favorite animal, before finally being able to pet a cheetah.

“I’m excited for the whole trip,” said Devin. “And my birthday happens to be when I’m over there!”

While in Africa, Devin and his family will be given numerous opportunities to take in the culture, and learn more about the wildlife. They’ll be attending a dinner at the Gold restaurant, where they will be able to taste traditional African cuisine while watching traditional African singing, dancing, puppetry, and instrumental performances in what is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Throughout their travels, they will be given opportunities to interact with elephants and meerkats, and to see other animals such as rhinos, buffalo, honey badgers, monkeys, and tigers.

In preparation for this journey, Devin has been given a globe so he can see exactly where he will be traveling to and how far it is. The plane ride is about 15 hours, but the whole family said it will be well worth it. Devin also got binoculars so he see the animals that may be farther away, which will definitely come in handy. Devin can’t wait to take pictures of everything and to make a music video of his excursions.

Devin’s mom, Jennifer, said the family talks about the trip all the time. They can’t wait to experience something so special all together.

More than 100 Connecticut kids are waiting for their wishes to come true in the coming months, and most of those wishes involve travel. You may donate unused Delta or United miles directly to the HAN Network Wishes in Flight Campaign by visiting CT.WISH.ORG/HANNetwork. JetBlue, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines also accept airline miles donations that support Make-A-Wish through their airline mile donation programs, which can be contributed through their individual websites.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Connecticut grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.  Wish-come-true experiences can do wonders by providing a much-needed break from lengthy hospital stays and medical treatments. They give back to a child what a serious medical condition can take away — the chance to simply enjoy being a kid. Wish kids choose something that will inspire happiness and allow them to spend precious time with their families. The Connecticut chapter has made more than 2,800 wishes come true since its inception in 1986. Learn more about Connecticut wishes at, or join Make-A-Wish on Facebook (search Make-A-Wish Connecticut) and follow them on Twitter and Instagram (@MakeAWishCT).