DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The effort to make Ricky Gibson’s wish come true is gaining strength.
The Maranacook of Readfield football player, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer in September, will be honored Friday night before the LTC Class C playoff game between Foxcroft Academy and Orono at Oakes Field.
The 15-year-old Gibson will be on hand to participate in the pregame coin toss, and he’ll also be presented Foxcroft and Orono game jerseys bearing his uniform No. 34 from players and coaches of the two squads, according to Foxcroft athletic administrator Tim Smith.
Cheerleaders at the game also will solicit donations from fans that will go toward a fund created for Gibson’s Make-A-Wish request, which is to have bleachers and lights installed at his high school’s football field.
The cost of adding lights and bleachers at Maranacook was estimated at $200,000, and the Maine chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation made an initial donation of $6,000 — the average cost of a wish it grants — to the newly established Ricky Gibson Fund.
The Foxcroft Academy ceremony will be part of a conference-wide effort this weekend to aid Gibson’s cause, according to LTC official Mike Archer, athletic administrator at Orono.
A script will be read at each of the six conference games describing Gibson’s wish, and Archer said plans are under way at each location to take up a collection during the game and/or donate a percentage of the gate receipts to the Gibson fund.
Gibson, a 5-foot-10, 155-pound sophomore from Wayne who plays defensive back and wide receiver, was expected to start for the Black Bears this fall but became ill just before the start of the season. He subsequently was diagnosed with pontine glioma, a malignant tumor in the brain stem.
When approached by Make-A-Wish in the aftermath of that diagnosis, Gibson said his wish was not something of personal benefit, but to upgrade his school’s football facility so that all young players from the towns of Readfield, Wayne, Fayette, Manchester and Mount Vernon that send students to Maranacook would benefit.
Several neighboring schools already have made donations to that cause. Among recent gifts, Winthrop High School gave gate receipts from its football game with Livermore Falls to the Gibson fund, and fans at last weekend’s game between Lawrence of Fairfield and Messalonskee of Oakland also made a significant contribution after Gibson was recognized during a pregame ceremony.
Friday night’s effort at Foxcroft Academy has been spear-headed by Joe Champeon of Dover-Foxcroft, the father of Foxcroft football player Ian Champeon.
The elder Champeon has followed Gibson’s case through the media and learned of the Lawrence event through his sister Judy, who teaches at the Fairfield school. Her son, who plays for the Bulldogs, was instrumental in sparking efforts that led to the ceremony at the Lawrence-Messalonskee game.
“I just thought, ‘why can’t we do the same thing here?’” Champeon said. “It’s a pretty selfless wish he has, for sure.”
Champeon since then has solicited Dover-Foxcroft-area businesses for donations in addition to working with Smith to develop a ceremony in honor of Gibson before the Ponies’ quarterfinal game.