JAY, Maine — When granted a wish by Make-A-Wish Maine, some children with life-threatening illnesses want to meet a famous person, attend a concert, hit a big mall for a shopping spree, travel, or even catch a sumo wrestling match.
Ten-year-old Josh Brochu of North Jay simply wanted his bedroom made over to resemble a parking lot, with a McDonald’s drive-through window and an O-gauge model train running around the ceiling, like the one at Governor’s Restaurant in Lewiston. And all of it under a blue sky.
At 12:30 p.m. Saturday, the young transportation enthusiast afflicted with a disease that’s attacking his brain, got his wish and then some when his father, Chris Brochu, guided the boy’s power chair into the renovated room.
“Oooooooh! Awesome!” Josh said on seeing a 4- by 6-foot print of a speeding Ferrari and actual wire-spoked hubcaps on a gray wall.
Chris and Lisa Brochu, and Josh and his sister, Brooke, 7, had just arrived home from a family vacation to Florida last week.
Josh and Brooke are students at Jay Elementary School. They suffer from the deadly, rare genetic disease, ataxia-telangiectasia, or A-T. It is a neurodegenerative disease that attacks the part of the brain that controls motor skills and the immune system.
The family participated in the A-T Children’s Project 2013 Disney World Marathon event’s Family 5-Kilometer Fun Run, said Lisa Brochu’s mother, Susan Copeland of Fayette. She and her husband, Gary, traveled with the family.
A-T is marked by a progressive loss of muscle control, eventual immune system problems, and a strikingly high rate of cancer, especially leukemia and lymphoma, according to the A-T Children’s Project, a nonprofit organization that raises money for research and supports families with AT-diagnosed children.
Affected children are usually in wheelchairs by the age of 10, do not survive their teens and there is no cure, according to the project’s website.
But on Saturday, that was all in the background as Josh, his family, relatives and friends took in his new room. Make-A-Wish volunteers even added some things to Brooke’s room.
Eyes widening and an even bigger grin spreading across his face, Josh saw his Lionel Polar Express train on a track that encircled his room near the powder-blue ceiling.
And there was his parking lot at the base of the Ferrari wall — complete with a crosswalk leading to his bed and reserved parking spaces marked on the floor.
The old door from the narrow hall to his room was gone. That’s where the McDonald’s drive-through window was installed, along with a bright, neon-lit Open sign and a poster of the restaurant’s campaign slogan, “I’m lovin’ it,” on a wall.
More shiny hubcaps lined the bright, lime-green wall behind his bed, atop which was a 32-inch television giftwrapped and adorned with a large, green, stuffed dragon.
Make-A-Wish volunteer contractors even replaced Josh’s floor with a snap-together material that is soft for him to sit or lie on. His window shades, like his ceiling fan, the train and his new bedroom door, can be operated by remote control.
Some adults tried to “order” food at the drive-through while filming Josh’s reaction.
“Come back later,” he said. “We might be open.”
Adults at the window teared up. Josh started his train, watching it roll along the tracks, and its whistle blew.
Brian Inch of Model Rail Scenes in Dover-Foxcroft installed the track in a day, said Kate Vickery, Make-A-Wish Maine program director. Contractors and volunteers spent the week that the family was away redesigning Josh’s bedroom.
While Josh played with his train, Chris Brochu said the boy “was pretty stoked. It’s good to see him smiling and pointing things out.”
“It’s awesome!” said Doug DiPasquale of Jay, who works with Chris Brochu at the Verso paper mill.
“They’ve done a great job and I think he’s going to love it,” DiPasquale said. “Josh definitely deserves it all. He’s a good kid.”