-- A 3-year-old boy in Maine who has been in a wheelchair his entire life did not have dreams of meeting a celebrity or visiting a far-flung destination when the wish-granters from Make-A-Wish asked him for his biggest dream.
Instead, Kellan Tilton, who was born with a cancerous tumor on his spine and abdomen, asked for their help in building a 200-foot long pathway from his family’s home to the barn where his dad and seven siblings spend much of their free time.
The pathway, to be formally unveiled at a “Wish Reveal Party” this weekend, will allow Kellan to play outside his family’s Detroit, Maine, home on his own.
“For him, it was about freedom and mobility,” Kellan’s father, Dan Tilton, told ABC News. “Before the path, he had to wait and could only go out if he was carried.”
Shortly after Kellan's at-home birth, Tilton says midwives discovered there was something wrong with the newborn's legs. Tilton and his wife, Elizabeth Tilton, rushed their son to the local hospital, from where they were quickly diverted to Boston Children’s Hospital for specialized treatment.
Doctors discovered the tumor in Kellan’s abdomen and spine was cancerous and started him on chemotherapy on his third day of life, according to Tilton. Four rounds of chemotherapy and a nearly 10-hour surgery to remove the tumor left Kellan cancer-free, but the placement of the tumor caused permanent paralysis.
“He’s now a healthy three-and-a-half year-old boy who does well in his wheelchair,” Tilton said.
The family’s nearly 40 acres of land in the small town of Detroit, though, presented obstacles for Kellan in his chair. The biggest of those obstacles has now been eliminated thanks to the generosity of local workers.
The six-person Make-A-Wish team in Maine partnered with a local construction company, Wireless Construction, Inc., to secure donations from the construction field to have all materials and labor for the approximately $15,000 project donated.
Construction crews broke ground on the project last week and have spent hours laboring, all under the watchful eye of Kellan.
“Every time Kellan was around them, they would pump him up and give him high fives,” Tilton said of the workers, who also let Kellan hammer some nails and drive the excavator.
With the pathway nearly complete, Tilton says his son is already “running” up and down it.
“The first thing he says in the morning is he wants to go out to his trail and run up and down and up and down,” Tilton said. “He calls it running because that’s what it is to him.”
“It’s been overwhelming in such a positive way, the freedom that he has now,” Tilton added. “To see the smile on his face, it’s really priceless to us.”