Thanks to Ricky Gibson, there are now lights on the football field at Maranacook Community School in Readfield.
But those who knew or knew about the 16-year-old high school sophomore from Wayne should be even more grateful for the life lessons he shared with all who came in contact with him during a seven-month battle with an inoperable brain tumor that ended with his passing last weekend.
Those lessons in courage and selflessness certainly will be remembered when a celebration of his life is held at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Francis Xavier Church in Winthrop.
Richard Henry Gibson III was like any other sports-minded high school kid late last summer, looking forward to football season as a starting defensive back for the Black Bears.
But soon after being taken to the hospital with slurred speech and blurry vision shortly after Maranacook’s first game of the season came the diagnosis — diffuse intrinsic pointine glioma — and the even more dire prognosis.
It’s never good news when the Make-A-Wish Foundation asks you what wish you’d like fulfilled, but when the offer soon followed, Gibson chose to make the most of it, not for himself but for his friends, his teammates and his community.
So instead of taking Make-A-Wish’s offer and heading to Disneyworld or meeting Tom Brady, Gibson chose to share his dream of playing football under the lights with future generations of Maranacook players on a field with new bleachers.
Make-A-Wish’s $6,000 donation became seed money for the project, and those seeds sprouted donations large and small from throughout central Maine, the state’s football world, and well beyond.
Some schools donated a share of gate receipts from their football games, others proceeds from their 50/50 raffles. Football officials collected money for the cause or even donated paychecks.
And when he could, Ricky Gibson was an active participant — like the Friday night he visited Dover-Foxcroft to see Foxcroft Academy play Orono.
Gibson was long since confined to a wheelchair by that point, but there was no hiding the smile on his face as he was wheeled onto the field for a pregame ceremony surrounded by players and coaches from both teams as well as the game officials — and where his eyes were the only dry ones in the house.
He left Oakes Field that night with some $5,000 in donations from local businesses and football fans, as well as team jerseys from both schools bearing his uniform No. 34 — just one more instance of people Gibson didn’t even know wanting to help make his wish come true.
By late autumn, that smile grew even broader, after Iowa-based Musco Lighting donated $100,000 worth of lights and a Massachusetts contractor, Island Lighting, erected the lights at the field named in his honor for free.
Soon Gibson flipped the switch and turned on the lights himself — a wish come true not only for him but for the next generation of Maranacook football players.
Youngsters from that next generation turned out last Saturday night and broke out in an impromptu football game during a candlelight vigil held in Gibson’s memory.
It was just the kind of tribute that would have brought out one more smile on Gibson’s face, and certainly a tribute he deserved.
For the courage and selflessness he displayed in the face of the most horrific circumstances any teenager could imagine these last seven months are a lesson for us all.