|Friday, Aug 5, 2005|
As far back as he can remember 13 year-old Manuel Diaz, has loved dinosaurs. In that way he is like many paleontologists ---- it's a passion that starts early and never goes away. Living first in San Diego and later Las Vegas, Manuel was not close to the any natural history museums that have extensive exhibits of those great reptiles. Furthermore, while serious health problems didn't dampen Manuel's enthusiasm, they did make travel difficult and restricted. Fortunately, this situation attracted the attention of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that helps seriously ill children fulfill their dreams. Some kids want to meet a sports hero or team, others to visit Disneyland. But for Manuel Diaz, the wish was to visit Dinosaur National Monument and be close to dinosaurs. While Manuel was under some health restrictions, he was able to walk, hike, and climb and the local Make-A-Wish chapter planned for a full tour. Like most visitors, Manuel and his family saw the great log jam of some 1500 dinosaur bones preserved in-place in the Quarry Visitor Center. But they were also treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the many fossil treasures in the Monument's museum collection. Manuel saw teeth of fossil mammals so small that they are mounted on the heads of pins and he had to look at them under a microscopes. He also saw the bones of many dinosaurs, including the skull of a dinosaur so new to science that it has yet to be named. On a separate day Manuel got to spend time assisting in field discovering dinosaur fossils eroding out of the rocks and even time in the preparation lab using small pneumatic tools to remove rock from 145 million-year-old dinosaur bone. To mark his visit, Manuel also received a certificate designating him an Honorary Paleontologist, T-shirts carrying his own original dinosaur artwork, and cast replicas of dinosaur fossils donated by a local company Fossil Reproductions. Make-A-Wish also arranged for a visit to a nearby natural history museum in Vernal, a trip to some of the region's outstanding Fremont petroglyph panels, and other activities. However, the highpoint was Manuel's visit to the Monument where he got to see dinosaurs and the world they lived in up close and in a way that few ever do. We were happy to help Make-A-Wish bring this dream true.