At 8 years old, Oban already has big, exciting plans for his future.
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But those plans were threatened just two years ago when he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Burkitt lymphoma. Because it was spreading so quickly, it turned into Burkitt leukemia — blood cancer that can cause lymph node tumor masses on the chest and/or abdomen which can severely impair the body’s ability to fight off illnesses and diseases.
Still, his unwavering love for animals and photography persisted and gave him hope as he battled this terrible disease.
“I love animals and nature because of my experiences in school,” Oban said.
That’s why, when it came time to planning an adventure through Make-A-Wish, Oban chose to spend his wish on a wildlife adventure! With his family, the 8-year-old visited Florida to explore the majestic wildlife the area holds.
“When he was first diagnosed we just wanted him back to where he was in one way, shape, or form,” Tom Birmingham, his dad, said. “And we could never imagine — we’re 10 months out of treatment, almost 11 months out of treatment, and here we are and you’d have no idea what he went through.”
Best of all, they had an incredible guide — National Geographic wildlife photographer, Carlton Ward! Together, they went through Florida’s Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a place that deer, birds, racoons, and tons of other creatures call home.
“I was blown away by Oban’s knowledge coming in here as an 8-year-old,” Carlton said. “To be there talking about the Florida panther and Oban being able to recite facts about the panther from articles that I was a part of that he read and he knew the back story and he’d learned about me and what I do. It’s super motivating.”
While on their adventure, Carlton was able to teach Oban all about being a wildlife photographer, including how to get the perfect angles and shots. Plus, Oban had the opportunity to see some of the animals he loves so much up-close and in-person!
“To be able to share these experiences firsthand in such a direct way, one-on-one and not just through the pages of a magazine or a TV documentary,” Carlton said. “This is the reason why we do this.”
Oban may be too young to be a wildlife photographer like Carlton for now, but this intelligent and empathetic little boy is well on his way to making that dream a reality.
“It helps to photograph endangered animals you can’t see otherwise,” Oban said.
Don’t forget to share this article with a friend to celebrate Oban’s bravery and his passion for wildlife photography.
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