Sick 8-Year-Old Boy Becomes Yosemite Ranger for Day

Gabriel Lavan Ying spent his Tuesday putting out a wildland fire, hiking through a stunning meadow, and helping an injured hiker into a helicopter transport.

And for doing so, the Gainesville, Florida, boy became an honorary Yosemite National Park Service ranger for a day at the age of 8.

The full day of activity, including the mock rescue, was arranged at Gabriel's request. Working outside at one of the country's most beautiful national parks in Northern California was part of his formal desire as a Make-A-Wish recipient to be a Yosemite ranger for a day.

"Never," Marissa Gajos, wish coordinator for the Make-A-Wish chapter of Central and Northern Florida, said of getting a request like the one made by Gabriel.

"He loves the outdoors, always has," Gajos said. "He'd never been to Yosemite before. It was easily his first pick."

Gabriel Lavan Ying, 8, of Gainesville, Florida helps out out a fire in Yosemite National Park. June 3, 2014.

Gabriel has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which affects a person's connective tissues — primarily the skin, joints and blood vessel walls. People with the disease usually have overly flexible joints and stretchy, fragile skin.

Thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Gabriel flew to California with his parents, Tara Lavan and Kon Ying, his twin sister, Angelica, and his 9-year-old brother, Dominic.

"We were so honored he picked us," Yosemite National Park spokeswoman Kari Cobb said. "Gabriel's family goes to national and state parks all the time to experience nature. But he had never been to Yosemite. It's great. Most kids pick to go to Disneyland."

About 300 people, including Yosemite community members and several dozen of Yosemite's Park Rangers, attended a ceremony in which Gabriel received his Honorary Park Ranger badge and credentials, Cobb said. 

United States Magistrate Judge Michael Seng and Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher presided over the ceremony in which Gabriel also received a wooden park ranger plaque and a flag that was flown over Yosemite Valley. 
Gabriel Lavan Ying, 8, of Gainesville, Florida helps a mock injured hiker in Yosemite National Park. June 3, 2014.

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