For young Blake Katzman, when things get rough, he said he can close his eyes and think back to the trip he took in April to the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific, made famous by Charles Darwin's studies of its unique wildlife.
"I went swimming and snorkeling with the penguins and saw sealions up close," said 10-year-old Westport boy, who has hemophilia, a medical condition in which the ability of blood to clot is severely reduced.
"I had a great time. I want to go back someday," he said.
Blake, who turns 11 in February, was able to make the trip thanks to Make-A-Wish Connecticut.
"It was life-changing, life-altering," said Blake's mother, Rachel.
Blake's entire family -- his mother, his father Dan and brothers Matthew and Kyle -- were also along on the trip to the islands, west of the coast of Ecuador.
Rachel Katzman said the trip came about after her son became fascinated with the islands and wrote a report for school about them and their maritime creatures.
"I think he identifies with the penguins because, even though they have wings, they can't fly," she said. "That's how he feels sometimes when he can't do something he wants to."
Blake was nominated to receive a wish from Make-A-Wish, and when it was time for him to decide what he would like, it was an easy choice, his mother said. The Galapagos Islands "was the only place he wanted to go to," she said.
She said traveling to the islands was a liberating experience for the entire family. "You get away from the everyday and get to enjoy things together as a family -- to have fun," she said.
Recently, Make-A-Wish Connecticut held its annual " Celebrating Wishes" ball in Greenwich. The event raised $525,000 which will go to the charity's mission of granting the wishes of Connecticut children battling medical conditions, according to Michael Dominick, community and media relations manager for the organization.
Blake was one of two children -- the other was a Darien boy whose wish was to travel to the rainforests of Hawaii -- who told their stories to the 400 attendees that night. The youngsters told them about what it meant to have their wishes granted.
Rachel Katzman said her family is proud of Blake and the way he was able to get up in front of the large crowd and tell about his adventure.
Dominick said the two boys "are the truest representation of our Make-A-Wish family and what it means to share the power of a wish."
He said they both "showed such courage by standing in front of friends, family and complete strangers and sharing their most personal experiences in hopes that they can make a difference and help another child's wish come true."
"They are an inspiration to us all," he said.
The Connecticut Make-A-Wish has helped to make more than 2,300 wishes come true since its inception in 1986. More about the Connecticut chapter is available on the organization's website: www.ct.wish.org