MEXICO, Maine — Devante Dupree, 13, rode around town in a Wal-Mart rig Friday morning before being presented with a $1,200 modified tricycle that left the cerebral palsy victim shaking his head in disbelief.
His mother, Crystal Dupree, said the tricycle “would give him the opportunity to ride around the block and do the same things as the rest of the kids in the neighborhood.”
The Mexico teen was born at 27 weeks and soon diagnosed with the handicapping condition, his mother said.
“Devante has struggled,” she said. “He hasn’t gotten to go out and do the same things that other kids do. Seeing that smile on his face when they brought out the bike is just amazing.”
His struggle reached the ears of Pat White, a shop technician at the Lewiston warehouse who has known Crystal Dupree all her life. White told her about the Wal-Mart Heart program, a group of Wal-Mart truck drivers who raise money for children and adults with chronic medical conditions or special needs, and gives them a chance to be an honorary truck driver for a day.
Driver Fred Thompson, participating in his first Wal-Mart Heart event, chauffered Devante around town in the rig and then pulled up in front of the store.
Dupree got out and sat in a chair staring at a table arrayed with gifts for him, including two Xbox games, gift cards, an Honorary Driver for the Day certificate and a specialized driver’s uniform with his name embroidered on the front.
But the best was saved for last: the modified tricycle built in Glendale, Ariz.
Thompson showed Dupree its features, which included a license plate on the back with his name on it, an air horn, an LED light on the front so he can ride in the evening, a harness and special pedals to keep his feet from falling off the trike.
“I had no idea this was going to happen,” Dupree said. “Everybody who helped put this together, I love all of them.”
Earlier this year, Dupree underwent major leg surgeries at the Shriner’s Children Hospital in Boston, leaving him immobile for six weeks, his mother explained. He’s had a long recovery “and still has a bit to go.”
He attends Mountain Valley Middle School and Crystal Dupree lauded students there for supporting him.
“He doesn’t get picked on at all,” she said. “If anything, they ask if they can help carry his books, or help him get his lunch. It’s a whole support system over there.”
She smiled and said, “He’s just amazing. He’s such a strong, young man. This event has been a lot for both me and him to take in.”
Truck driver Anthony Saucier, who was one of several at Friday’s presentation, said all the drivers in the Wal-Mart Heart program volunteer for it and a couple of them have handicapped children, some of them with debilitating diseases.
“It’s priceless,” he said, of the effect the program has on children.
He also credited employees who donate money to the program to buy gifts.
As Devante sat next to his gifts, he stuck a fork into a piece of cake made for the occasion.
“Man, this right here is the icing on the cake,” he said.