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MAKE-A-WISH DRAWS FIRE FOR TRIP TO LET DYING TEENAGER HUNT BEAR

Published: Saturday, May 11 1996 12:00 a.m. MDT

The Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants youngsters' dying wishes, has come under fire from animal-rights activists for arranging for a cancer-stricken teenager to hunt and kill a kodiak bear in Alaska.

They are pushing the organization to change its plans, or at least its policy on wish-granting.The 17-year-old, identified by the foundation only as Erik, has a brain tumor. He was supposed to make the trip with his father sometime this month.

Neither the organization nor its Minnesota chapter, which arranged the trip, would say Friday whether the expedition was under way.

"Please take the time to give this issue some thought, think about the significance of taking an innocent life as part of a dying wish, and please change your policies to take the interests of all living beings into consideration when granting wishes," Heidi Prescott, director of the Fund for Animals, wrote March 4 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, based in Phoenix.

Prescott said her group offered to donate a camera to Erik so he could shoot pictures of bears instead.

Stephen E. Torkelsen, national president of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, said the wishes granted are based entirely on the desires of the child. The organization said Erik's request "is the sincere wish of the youngster and reflects a lifelong involvement in family hunting and fishing trips."

Erik's wish has generated calls, both pro and con, from listeners of Twin Cities talk radio, and Saint Paul Pioneer Press columnist Joe Soucheray wrote: "Erik's wish is legitimate. He wanted to tromp around Alaska with his father in pursuit of what is probably the greatest hunting trophy in North America."

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