- Associated Press - Monday, June 1, 2015

WEST BEND, Wis. (AP) - When 5-year-old Linkin Eger set out in mid-May to search for the illustrious Bigfoot at the Kettle Moraine State Forest’s Pike Lake Unit in Hartford, nobody could have predicted the tearful reaction it set off.

“It still chokes me up talking about it and brings tears to my eyes,” said Linkin’s mother, Kelly Eger of West Allis.

Three years earlier, Linkin was diagnosed with a brain tumor and was put through a series of surgeries and medical procedures to reduce the size of the growth. The process resulted in many side effects, including seizures and eye surgery that paralyzed the right side of his body temporarily.

Despite the long process of getting healthy, Linkin has always kept a strong demeanor, the Daily News of West Bend reported.

“He continues to have the greatest attitude,” Kelly said. “Anybody who meets him knows he’s full of love and laughter … he reminds me of a mini Chris Farley.” Because of the strength he’s shown, the Make-A-Wish Foundation agreed to grant Linkin just about any wish he could dream up. Typical wishes Make-A-Wish grants range from a trip to Disneyland to meeting famous celebrities and athletes, but Linkin had bigger ideas.

He wanted to be the first person in the world to find Bigfoot.

“It threw us off,” Kelly said of Linkin’s wish. “It wasn’t something we discussed as a family.” Kelly said she thinks Linkin is fascinated by Bigfoot because of the trips they’d take as a family.

“We’ve seen a couple of episodes of ‘Finding Bigfoot,’ but it’s not something we’d watch every week,” Kelly said. “I think he has great memories of us going camping and hiking, and Bigfoot must’ve been something he took interest in.” Linkin surmised Bigfoot’s diet consists mainly of sweets, but especially marshmallows.

Regardless, right when Allie Christman, a volunteer wish granter for Make-A-Wish, heard of Linkin’s desire, she was determined to make it a reality.

“It was a different wish from what I’ve done in the past,” Christman said.

“Linkin is a man of different taste. He loves adventure, hiking and camping.

“We knew that this one would be extra fun to plan.” Christman and her coworkers got right on it, making calls and laying the groundwork. She connected with Roskopf’s RV Center in Richfield, who donated a camper trailer to the Eger family. She said the donation is intended for the Eger family to go on a camping trip to Yellowstone National Park.

Next, Christman contacted Bob Kohn of Bayside for assistance in providing a proper character to portray Bigfoot.

Kohn is a member of the 501st Legion, an international fan-based organization dedicated to creating and wearing film-accurate Star Wars costumes. He offered up a Chewbacca costume and agreed to play the role of Bigfoot for the big day.

“When I got the call, I said ‘absolutely,’” Kohn said. “Make-A-Wish is a thing for our organization and I was privileged to lend a hand.” Next, Christman connected with the Pike Lake unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest in Hartford, where staff helped arrange a half-mile hike through the forest on a search for Bigfoot.

Once the day for the hike finally came, everything was set and ready to go.

Staff mapped out a half-mile trek the led Linkin and his family directly to the brand new camper, with Bigfoot inside.

The Pike Lake unit also provided Linkin with a park ranger for the day — Ranger Sara Roxbury — and a toolkit loaded with a magnifying glass and other tools necessary to locate the 8-foot-tall beast.

“When I first got asked to do it, I said ‘yes’ without hesitation,” Roxbury said.

On the hike, clues were placed along the route, including footprints of the mysterious beast.

“Our trick for catching Bigfoot was putting a pile of flour in the woods,” Christman said. “We put Skittles in the middle, so when he walks through to get to the candy, he left footprints.” Ranger Sara and Linkin walked through the woods, following the clues along the way.

“He was so excited the whole time,” Roxbury said. “He’d stop and pull out his toolbox where he had his horn to make Bigfoot calls. It was a moment that I?ll never forget.” Soon enough, Linkin discovered the camper at the end of the route.

Instinctively, Linkin let out Bigfoot calls, looking for a response.

It came as a shock to him what happened next.

“When he got to the camper, he noticed the prints leading up to the camper went to the door,” Kohn said. “He started to call for me, so I responded.” Naturally, Linkin opened the camper’s door and was face-to-face with an 8-foot-tall Bigfoot, whose mouth was jammed full of his favorite food — marshmallows.

Kelly said the look on Linkin’s face when he first saw him was one she won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

“If there was a memory I could hold onto for the rest of my life, it’s when he called for Bigfoot and Bigfoot called back for him,” Kelly said. “The look on his face when he opened up the camper and saw Bigfoot in there eating marshmallows gives me chills. Everyone there was in awe.” Linkin immediately rushed to Bigfoot to give him a hug and hang out with his new friend.

“He was instantly shocked and looked like he wanted to jump out of his skin,” Roxbury said. “It was priceless. The whole experience was rewarding.

“I couldn’t tell he was sick, he was just a normal kid having a blast searching for Bigfoot.” Just like that — with the help of many along the way — a child’s dream that seemed inconceivable came true.

“Linkin is a brave kid and has a great sense of adventure,” Christman said. “He wanted to find Bigfoot and he did. Other kids may be scared, but not Linkin. He wanted to meet him and give him a huge hug, which shows what kind of kid he is.” Kelly said Linkin hasn’t stopped talking about the day he found Bigfoot.

“He still walks around with his toolkit,” Kelly said. “He’s got his investigator badge, magnifying glass and specimen jars with him all the time.” Nowadays, Linkin is getting healthier. Through the procedures he has about 20 percent of the tumor remaining. Kelly said once he grows, doctors will attempt to remove the remainder of the tumor.

“Our hope is that it doesn’t do much until he’s 8,” Kelly said. “Then we can start talking about chemotherapy and radiation.”

___

Information from: Daily News, https://www.dailynewsol.com/

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