WAYNE, Maine— Ricky Gibson, the 16-year-old Maranacook Community School sophomore who spearheaded a campaign starting with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to provide lights and bleachers for his school’s football field, died Friday night after a seven-month battle with an inoperable brain tumor.
Gibson, a defensive back on the Readfield school’s football team, was diagnosed with diffused intrinsic pontine glioma last September, shortly after playing in the Black Bears’ first game of the season.
When approached by the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Maine, Gibson’s wish was to give back through lights and bleachers for the football field at his school.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation provided an initial $6,000 donation, after which additional donations came in from community members and other schools around the state.
Maranacook Football Inc. and the Maranacook Education Foundation raised more than $100,000 through fundraising events and donations, and many high school teams also contributed to the effort through 50/50 raffles or sharing gate receipts.
In addition, Iowa-based Musco Lighting learned of Gibson’s case and donated six poles and 24 lights to illuminate the football field. A Massachusetts contractor installed the lights free of charge.
Gibson realized his wish when he turned on the new lights at the football field for the first time last Dec. 20, which Gov. John E. Baldacci proclaimed “Ricky Gibson Day in Maine.”
More than 200 people turned out for a candlelight vigil in Gibson’s honor at the field Saturday night.
“I was blessed to have had the opportunity to meet Ricky Gibson a couple of times over the past few months,” Baldacci said in a statement released earlier Saturday.
“It was difficult not to be inspired by his drive, determination and love for life. He selflessly turned his wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation into a wish for the town, and motivated an entire community in the process. Ricky got the most out of life, but he will be missed. My thoughts and prayers are with Ricky’s family, friends and classmates during this difficult time.”