Declan’s wish to “blow stuff up” tops weekend to remember

Declan, family and members from the AFP stand in front of the bearcat with an explosion in the background.

AFP members rallied over the weekend to help Make-A-Wish Australia fulfil a young sick boy’s wish by organising an all-out, behind the scenes experience and tour of policing facilities and capabilities in Canberra.

Twelve-year-old Declan from Sydney was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2015.

He and his family travelled to Canberra, care of Make-A-Wish Australia, so Declan could spend a weekend with members of the AFP. Make-A-Wish arranges bespoke wish journeys for children so they can experience their most cherished wish.

On Saturday 26 November, the AFP jumped on board to help Declan’s wish come true, which was to “blow stuff up”. Declan is a real ‘boy’s boy’, and after spending so much time in hospital battling his illness he wanted to do something risky and out of his comfort zone.

Specialist Response Group Tactical Response at Majura stepped in to grant that wish. Declan had a unique experience which included a hostage rescue demonstration, breaching a door with the assistance of the ram on the Tactical Bearcat vehicle, detonating (at a safe distance, of course) a wall and door charges in a series of controlled explosions – which was “awesome”!

Taking the wish one step further, Declan’s name was spelled out by explosives. The SRG experience ended with a loud bang - a fuel-air explosion which topped off the visit.

The AFP wanted to enhance Declan’s wish, so several activities and visits were arranged to ensure it was a weekend to remember.

Declan and his family were treated like VIPs as they were escorted to each location by the Close Personal Protection Team in a police motorcade. During their lunch break at the Majura complex, the family met two furry canines and had a special visit from AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin and Deputy Commissioner Capability Ramzi Jabbour.

After lunch Declan and the family had a tour of the Forensics facility in Majura which included firearms on display.

Day two of the highlights included a tour of the US Embassy including a meet and greet with US marines and an intruder drill where Declan got to battle the ‘red man’, and a meet and greet with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, which left Declan speechless.

This was followed by a tour of Parliament House, lunch at the Canberra Arboretum, a meet and greet with Governor General Peter Cosgrove and Lady Cosgrove (including a tour of Government House), and a tour of Lake Burley Griffin on the tactical Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat with SRG Maritime.

Declan’s mum Belinda said she was lost for words at the effort made by the AFP for her son.

“The memories and experience will never be forgotten and we want to make sure that everyone involved knows how much we appreciate everything that happened in the lead up to the wish and on the weekend,” she said.

“He wasn’t expecting it. I was buoyed by the hospitality and friendliness of all of the AFP.

“The team has been brilliant and we can’t thank them enough - the AFP really went all out.”

It was definitely a memory Declan and the family can look back on forever.