PORTLAND, Maine — If the smile plastered across Ethan Houle’s face Monday was any indication, the 17-year-old got his wish.
The senior at Kennebunk High School is in need of a kidney transplant as he suffers from a rare form of kidney disease. On Friday, Make-A-Wish Maine helped Houle’s wish for a boat — to share the joy of being on the ocean with other young children facing similar struggles — come true.
Houle got the royal treatment Monday as he was escorted in an SUV limousine to Coast Guard Sector Northern New England, which rolled out the red carpet, served Houle’s favorite meal of prime rib for lunch at the station followed by a tour. Then, Houle was taken to Portland Yacht Services where his dream boat — named Ethan’s Wish — was waiting.
An avid boater, along with his mom Teresa Houle, Ethan Houle said being on the water “takes you away from everything.”
“I look forward to going for a ride soon,” he said, looking at the boat with two benches for seating and enough room on the bow for his dog Toby, who tagged along for all of Monday’s festivities, to proudly ride.
The Carolina Skiff J1450 was selected by the folks at Portland Yacht Services as part of a package for Houle, who learned his wish would be granted by Make-A-Wish while participating as a special guest on board Portland Tugboat, LLC’s tug during the “Parade of Lights” this past December.
As he rolled into Portland Yacht Services Monday, Houle was greeted by friends and family members cheering in support, including Toby sporting a blue Make-A-Wish T-shirt.
“It’s hard to put into words. It’s just really special to see Ethan have such a special day like this. That’s just the best part,” Teresa Houle said. “It’s going to take a while to kind of process this.”
Ethan Houle’s wish was granted Monday in honor of the Old Village Inn in Ogunquit, which through an annual Make-A-Wish Ball raised more than $6,000 this year for the organization — the average cost of granting a wish in Maine.
Owners Dean Goodman and Marcia Greenfield said they started the fundraiser a few years ago, and it has grown each year since. On Monday, the two watched with smiles on their faces as Houle hopped into his boat for the first time.
The day’s festivities were organized by volunteer wish granters Lisa Anderson and Darlene Saltz, both of York, who met with Houle and his mother and planned the day around his wishes.
“It’s so rewarding. Every wish is so different. They are all special in their own way,” Anderson said.
The reveal of Houle’s boat was the end to an exciting day that included a unique look at Coast Guard Sector Northern New England — with tours of vessels used for search and rescue operations, including the 65-foot Cutter Shackle, a look at the station’s command center, and the Aids to Navigation Team — and a special presentation by Cpt. Brian Gilda and Deputy Cmdr. Tony Ceraolo appointing Houle as an honorary member of the United States Coast Guard.
“It was just really cool to go to the Coast Guard and see all the boats and what they do,” Houle said. “Every single person I met there was super friendly and nice.”
And of course, that prime rib was for lunch.
“Every day is not prime rib day, but every day in the Coast Guard is a good day,” said Gilda, who offered Houle three pieces of advice.
“Show up every day ready to work. Work as a member of a team. Really do your best,” he said. “When you’re able to do that every day, everything comes as a success.”