South Florida

The critically ill boy’s wish? To fly from Colorado to meet Florida alligators

Ryland Gallagher’s wish has always been to meet alligators and crocodiles.

That wish surely came true Friday for the 8-year-old from Colorado Springs, Colorado, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections.

The disease, which often limits his ability to breathe, didn’t stop him from enjoying South Florida’s wildlife at Zoo Miami and the Everglades.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation, partnering with Zoo Miami and Everglades National Park, led the boy and his family on exclusive tours not available to the general public.

During his adventure, Ryland was introduced to a rhino iguana, a 525-pound Galápagos Giant Tortoise, and a koala. Ryland also fed giraffes and rhinos and was able to see several alligators and crocodiles.

“Wish kids most often ‘wish to be’ (something), ‘wish to meet’ (someone), ‘wish to go’ (somewhere), or ‘wish to have’ (something), and the nonprofit organization makes this happen for the child and his/her entire family at no cost or obligation,” said Stu Opperman, spokesman for Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Southern Florida chapter.

Ryland’s wish will also include fishing in Key Largo and other outdoor activities in the Florida Keys on Saturday.

Monique O. Madan: 305-376-2108, @MoniqueOMadan