HERMON, Maine — Though 6-year-old Sophia Galvan didn’t offer much in the way of words, her shining eyes, wide grin and flushed cheeks said it all — snow is way cool.
While most Mainers take snow for granted, the chance to see snow for the first time, build a snowman and go flying down a snow-covered mountain on an inner tube were things Sophia has long dreamed of. She had seen snow in movies and cartoons and on Christmas cards but she had never played in it or held it in her hands.
This week, the shy kindergartener from Tampa, Fla., and her family were in Maine to do just that and more as guests of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that grants the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses, in Sophia’s case, nasopharyngeal rhabdomyosarcoma, a form of cancer that causes soft tissue tumors in children.
Fulfilling the wishes is made possible through donations from businesses, organizations and individuals.
Sharing the winter wonderland experience with Sophia were her parents, Victor and Yolanda Galvan, her younger brother, Sebastian, her baby sister, Brianna, and her grandmother Angelina.
While in Maine, Sophia and her family went sleigh riding at Burgess Tree Farm in Newport, where they were guests of honor at a hot cocoa tea party. They visited the Maine Discovery Museum and The Maine Jump. They had family meals at Texas Roadhouse and the Olive Garden, Sophia’s favorite restaurant. They also went to Orono, where members of the Chi Omega sorority at the University of Maine held a snowman-making party in Sophia’s honor.
And because the Galvans’ usual wardrobe does not include parkas, snow pants, warm boots and gloves, the family was outfitted for cold weather by the Ski Rack, Cadillac Mountain Sports and Epic Sports of Bangor and Miller’s Workshop in Brewer.
Sophia spent Wednesday — her last day in Maine before her return flight to Florida — at Hermon Mountain Ski Area, where the red carpet treatment continued.
Sophia and her family were picked up at their rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bangor, where they boarded a LifeFlight of Maine passenger van for their ride to Hermon. They pulled up to the ski lodge with an escort of police vehicles from the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office, the Maine State Police, the Maine Warden Service and the Bangor Police Department.
The Galvans were greeted by a crowd of well wishers, among them Hermon Mountain owners Bill and Marlene Whitcomb, who had an afternoon of surprises in store. In addition to tubing and snowman making were face painting, a reception featuring bakery items and other goodies donated by volunteers and local grocery stores, and a dog sled ride with musher Dan Pelletier of Alton with a snowmobile escort provided by the Maine Warden Service.
Upon learning of Sophia’s love of SpongeBob SquarePants, Steve Ribble, a local landscape architect who also is a member of the ski patrol at Hermon Mountain ski patrol, made a pair of SpongeBob SquarePants snow sculptures — one at the base of the mountain and the other at its top.
Sophia also was presented customized souvenir T-shirts, snowman-themed jewelry and a scrapbook filled with photographs of snowmen made for her by ski patrols from mountains around the state.
Bill Whitcomb said that Mainers asked to help make Sophia dreams come true jumped at the chance to do so because they were moved by her simple, humble wish.
“We feel blessed to be part of this,” he said.
Although Sophia declined to speak with reporters Wednesday, she had lots to say to Hermon Mountain ski patrol member Lisa Romero.
“She was very excited about the [sled] dogs. She did just tell me, ‘You know, when you talk to dogs, they talk right back to you.’ So I said, ‘I know, because they just were telling me that they couldn’t wait to meet you and give you a dog sled ride.’ So she’s starting to open up a little bit. I think she’s just overwhelmed. This is an awful lot for her.”
Sophia’s parents said they are grateful to those who helped grant their little girl’s wish.
“She’s been really excited about everything,” Yolanda Galvan said. “Everything that has to do with snow, she liked it and she enjoyed everything, every moment that she saw the snow. As soon as she saw the snow, she was really happy to get into it.
“I never thought she was going to be that happy. That was her wish. We’re happy to know that her wishes are coming true. We don’t have [any] words, like no words come to mind, to describe how happy this has made us,” she said, adding that Sophia learned how to make snow angels before her Maine trip, thanks to some neighbors who moved to Florida from Pennsylvania.
Victor Galvan said he was moved to see his daughter get her first glimpse of snow.
“She saw it when she was getting off the plane but she didn’t really believe it,” he said. First thing the next morning, she was out making snow angels, he said.