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Harpswell teen gets surprised with wish on wheels

BY DARCIE MOORE / Times Record Staff

Nicholas Farmer, 16, of Harpswell, sits on the new Honda ATV he was given by Make-A-Wish Maine today during a surprise party at Tri-Sports in Topsham. Behind Farmer is Missy Rowe, 16, of Brunswick. Looking on at right is Kate Vickery of Make-A-Wish Maine. DARCIE MOORE/The Times Record  Nicholas Farmer, 16, of Harpswell, sits on the new Honda ATV he was given by Make-A-Wish Maine today during a surprise party at Tri-Sports in Topsham. Behind Farmer is Missy Rowe, 16, of Brunswick. Looking on at right is Kate Vickery of Make-A-Wish Maine. DARCIE MOORE/The Times Record TOPSHAM

Walking through the doors of Tri-Sports in Topsham beyond the rows of shiny all-terrain vehicles, Nicholas Farmer found a crowd of family and friends clapping and cheering.

The 16-year-old didn’t even notice the surprise at the back of the room at first. A new red Honda TRX450R ATV perfect for trail-riding was waiting for him. A floating bouquet of balloons was tethered to the handle.

“Get on!” someone said.

He did.

Farmer, who lives in Harpswell, has known he was getting an ATV courtesy of Make-A-Wish Maine for about a year. Tri-Sports provided a discount to the wish-granting organization. Farmer had been diagnosed with and was being treated for lymphoma when doctors found he had a heart condition as well. Now in remission, after undergoing the cancer treatment, his grandfather, John Farmer, said doctors decided to wait for about six months and in December, he had pulmonary artery surgery.

He told his grandson ahead of time to make sure he kept today free because they had to go to Tri-Sports. He told him he was going to be fitted for riding gear, and drove Nick to the Gray Street store off Route 201. Pointing out all his children and grandchildren one-by-one today, “I loved it,” he said of getting to walk through the doors with Nick as everyone yelled “Surprise!”

His mother, Julie Farmer, said before her son arrived that he had just passed his stress test Wednesday and was cleared to ride.

Which is good because several members of the Topsham Trailriders ATV club were on hand and gave Nick a free membership. An avid rider, Nick has had ATVs before, but they tend to break down often. Having a new machine will be a new experience.

As friends, family, even neighbors waited for Nick to arrive with his grandfather, “I can’t wait to see his face when he comes in,” said his father, Darren Gallagher.

After the cheers and applause and pictures of Nick sitting on the ATV subsided, “We got him,” said Nick’s mom.

“As soon as I drove in and saw my mom’s truck and everybody else,” and the news van outside the store, “I knew something was up,” Nick said today after his surprise party, as a shiny white limousine waited outside to take him home.

Nick said he is feeling much better now than he was a month ago. After a very tough year, “everything’s looking good so far. I just finished my stress test, and that looked good.”

John Farmer, who rides with his grandson and took a safety course with him recently in anticipation of the gift, said, “My only problem is getting him to slow down!”

John and his grandson are close. Most lately, he’s been driving with the teen, who just got his drivers permit. Nick and his mother live with John and his wife of 43 years, Belinda.

When his grandson was diagnosed with lymphoma, “I was scared,” John said. “Really scared. I’ve dealt with cancer before. He’s a lucky kid.” He was at Maine Medical Center in Portland every day with Nick while he was being treated for the cancer, and then for the heart surgery.

Belinda Farmer said Make-A-Wish “is a wonderful foundation. They make kids’ dreams come true, especially when you don’t know if they’re going to make it or not. And he was surprised. That was a good thing. I just can’t say enough about the Make-A-Wish foundation,” and wish everyone would consider helping a child.

She added, “We’ve been through enough tears. Now we can let down our hair a little bit.”

With many friends and cousins surrounding him today, Belinda said her grandson had friends supporting him all the way through his illness and chemo treatments, “but he requested nothing. He was a good boy.”

Even doctors were amazed at how strong Nick remained through his health battle, Belinda said, adding, “I think he’s very strong, very determined. I just want him to grow up and be the best he can be. And he has that chance.”

The Make-A-Wish program is awesome, Nick said. “I was surprised.”

Kathy Hunter and Christen Stewart, both of Topsham, were the volunteer Wish Granters.

“We’re the lucky ones, because we actually get to do all the fun things like meet the kids and meet their families and plan the special events for them, so we are the ones who feel so honored and blessed,” said Hunter. The two fell in love with Nick from the start, she said.

“These kids are an inspiration to us,” Stewart said, “because they are going through such a tough time and their family is, and this wish really does give them something to look forward to when they’re going through their treatments.”

In addition to the ATV, Make-A-Wish is also providing Nick with a safety gear package (helmet, gloves, goggles, boots, elbow pads, and chest protector), registration fees and insurance coverage for one year.

A donation-funded, tax-exempt organization, Make-A-Wish “grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.” As of this month, the Maine chapter has granted more than 1,100 wishes and in the coming year, expects to grant the greatest wish of more than 75 seriously ill Maine children.

The average cost of a wish is $6,000. All money raised in Maine stays in Maine. For more information about Make-A-Wish Maine, visitwww.maine.wish.org.

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