Having battled cancer
most of his life, when 14-year-old Kevin Hertz's pediatric
oncologist, Merlin Hamry, told him he was moving to Alaska,
Kevin and his family were devastated. Hamry had a
well-established rapport with Kevin and treated him for
eight years after Kevin was diagnosed with a brain tumor at
So when a second tumor
developed in Kevin's brain at age 12, he and his family were
without Hamry's familiar face. Prior to leaving Michigan for
the Last Frontier, Hamry told Kevin to take a fishing trip
and come visit him.
Thanks to Benefit 4 Kids,
a nonprofit organization that grants outdoor life wishes to
children with life-threatening or life-limiting illnesses,
Kevin was reunited with his former doctor.
"Wow. How do you explain
a place that beautiful?" said Kevin's mom, Karen. "We want
to go back."
Kevin, along with his
parents and brother, left their Sterling Heights, MI home
August 3 and spent a week in Alaska.
Kevin and his family
first visited the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in
"That place was just
amazing," Karen said.
The Hertzs then went to
Soldotna and fished for two days on the Kenai River.
"It was thrilling," Karen
said. "We did really, really well in the fishing
Kevin and his family
caught silver and king salmon, Dolly Varden's and rainbow
trout, said Val Early, of Early's Lodge, where the Hertz
"I caught a lot of fish,"
"They were a lot of fun
to have," Val said. "We had a great time."
During his time in
Soldotna, Kevin got a visit from his former doctor and the
two fished together, fulfilling Kevin's plan to visit Alaska
and his ex-oncologist.
"He's a very, very nice
doctor," Karen said.
The Hertzs didn't stay in
Soldotna long. After two days of fishing, they were off to
Seward for a behind-the-scenes tour of the SeaLife Center,
where Kevin was able to touch an octopus, dissect a squid
and feed a puffin.
Kevin's final adventure
was had in Whittier, where he and his family enjoyed a
cruise of Prince William Sound. Kevin was able to hold a
piece of a glacier while on the cruise.
Karen said Prince William
Sound was breathtaking.
"We couldn't ask for a
better trip," she said. "The best trip we've ever had."
After being home for just
over two weeks, Karen said the trip is still fresh in her
"I still beam when I talk
about Alaska," she said.
"It was awesome," Kevin
said. "I definitely want to go back again."
Kevin said he started
saving all of his change so he can visit Alaska again in the
Karen said Benefit 4 Kids
arranged the entire trip, which was a nice break in her
"When your child is sick,
everything is on you," she said. "They took that
responsibility away from us."
"It's a really rewarding
experience," Val said about being involved in Kevin's trip.
"It's always nice to give back."
Val said she was thrilled
to be a part of building memories for years to come for
Kevin and his family.
"I was really happy that
we had the opportunity to help," Val said. "I had a really
nice time with him."
Mike Nesper can be reached at