FRANKFORT, Maine — Brad Pinkerton has a face covered in freckles. He catches frogs, rides four-wheelers and plays video games. In short, he’s an 11-year-old boy. But when he was diagnosed with leukemia last December, many of his boyhood activities were sidelined as he fought for his life.
He lost his hair. He lost some motion in his leg. He lost half a year at school. Worst of all, he lost his best friend who was 7 years old and also battling cancer.
Now, 8 months and 100 blood transfusions later, he’s better. His cancer is in remission. His leg is improving. His blond hair grew back. His family, which has health insurance, is almost back on its feet.
Brad’s mother, Nicole Harvey of Frankfort, had to take a leave from her job to take care of her son for six months. While the medical bills are mostly cared for, the other bills have stacked up.
To help her, a local bar and community members have organized a motorcycle ride to benefit Brad and and his mother.
Brad and Harvey will ride with about 200 motorcyclists who all paid a $20 donation to ride 100 miles from Bowen’s Tavern in Belfast to Newport and back. The ride will start at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, and will end at the tavern, which will host a pig roast, raffle and auction to benefit Brad. Preregistration will begin at 8 a.m. Nonriders also can attend the pig roast.
It’s the second year the business has sponsored a benefit ride. The first time, Bowen’s Tavern threw the benefit for one of its owners, Greg Bowen, who has bone cancer. The 33-year-old bar owner is dying but asked his friends to keep doing the motorcycle ride fundraiser for others in Waldo County with cancer.
“We went with Greg’s wishes,” said event organizer Sandy Merrifield. “He’s the inspiration to us to keep giving to the community.”
After Bowen’s request, Merrifield and her event committee began to look for people with cancer around the county. They found a couple of people who said they didn’t need the money. Then they found Brad and his mom.
“It’s nice to have the community supporting you when you feel so alone. I didn’t think we’d get chosen but we’re very grateful we did,” Harvey said. “It was never an easy road. You think it will never happen to me, then it does. But Brad never gave up. That’s how we got through it.”
“It’s like being really sick,” is how Brad describes having leukemia. “You get a lot of attention. But it’s not so good.”
He used to run around outside a lot and play on his four-wheeler.
“He went from that to lying in a hospital bed,” said his mother.
Although he’s in remission now, Brad still needs to take breaks and play a little more gently than he used to.
In fact, lots of things have changed for Brad.
“It made me a better person,” the 11-year-old said of his disease. “I was always mean and selfish and a brat. When I got through cancer I thought I shouldn’t act like that. I still get in trouble, because I’m me, but I respect a lot of people.”
Now Brad visits the doctor for checkups every 28 days to make sure everything is still good. He’s soon going back to school, where he be in sixth grade. He’s just happy to be out of that hospital bed.
“God gave me another chance at life. I’m going to make it really fun.”