He’s a Montana boy, but Jamie Guerin has never been to Glacier National Park.
Sadly, he doesn’t have much time left to see the nation’s crown jewel.
Jamie is dying of a degenerative disease called Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Last year, doctors predicted he had maybe a year to live, and that year is drawing to a close.
A few weeks ago, Jamie’s social worker, Kathy Flynn, asked him if there was anything she could do for him.
“He’s always been very quiet and he never asks for anything, but he just said, ‘Glacier Park,’ ” Flynn recalled. “I said, ‘You want to go to Glacier?’ And he said yes.”
“He’s never been there, and I know he’s wanted to go,” said Jamie’s mother, Donna Starling.
Flynn quickly ran an advertisement in the Missoulian: “An 18-year-old with Duchenne muscular dystrophy has been hospitalized for a decline in his health. He has a limited time to live and has a last wish. He would like to go to Glacier Park and see mountains. He would like to stay overnight and will need money for gas, meals and motel. If you can help, call ...”
Said Flynn: “Well, you know how Missoula is. The phone just started ringing. I had quite a few donations, and we were also contacted by the Glacier Country Regional Tourism Commission.”
Tia Troy is public relations manager for the tourism commission.
“We saw the ad and we got in touch with Kathy and it just took off from there,” said Troy.
Everywhere Troy turned in the park for help, she got it.
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“We work with a lot of partners in the park, and and everybody we got in touch with was willing to help us out,” she said. “It’s pretty remarkable, given that it’s the middle of the summer tourist season. But nobody said no.”
So on Friday, July 23, Jamie will head for the park with his sister, her boyfriend and their baby. They will stay two nights at the Lake McDonald Lodge, courtesy of Glacier Park Inc.
“We needed to have a room that was handicapped-accessible, and they came through,” Troy said.
Jamie and his family will tour Lake McDonald, courtesy of the Glacier Park Boat Co., and on Saturday they’ll take a four-hour interpretive tour along Going-to-the-Sun Road, crossing Logan Pass and catching some of the sights on the park’s east side before returning to Lake McDonald.
Glacier Raft Co. donated a hat and a shirt, and the tourism commission came through with a $200 cash card that Jamie and family can use for gas and meals.
“I have to say, we also had a number of private donors who just wanted to give money for whatever he needed, so he’ll have that, as well,” said Flynn. “It’s amazing how people just come out of the woodwork to help in times like these.”
The Glacier trip isn’t the first time folks have come to Jamie’s aid. The Montana Highway Patrol’s Hope Project sent him to Disneyworld.
And last year, after a story appeared in the Missoulian about the Jamie’s need for a hot tub to ease his aching muscles, folks nearly tripped over one another as they worked to get a tub installed and set up for a boy bound to his wheelchair.
About the only wish that Jamie has not been granted is for someone to find a cure for Duchenne, a debilitating disease that destroys the body’s skeletal muscles and eventually lays waste to the heart and lungs. (See related story on page A1.) It’s rare for a Duchenne sufferer to live into his early to mid-20s.
Jamie won’t get there. But he will get to Glacier Park, thanks to what appears to be the kindness of strangers but which is, in fact, the kindness of the family that is Montana.