Lucas Voight scaled the rear ladder of Portage Fire Engine 3 on Friday morning, glancing back just long enough to see an infectious smile spread across his mother’s face.
Sarah Voight asked if her son was a monkey. The Fall River 6-year-old said he wanted to be a ninja, then climbed down the ladder and hoisted his body on the rear platform of the truck and swung his legs around, gleefully swinging them below.
“I’m going to Florida, where the sharks are,” Lucas declared from atop his perch.
The all-expense-paid-for journey for Lucas, who was diagnosed with leukemia more than three years ago, became possible when Lt. Steve Dehn retired from the Portage Fire Department after 36 years.
In lieu of accepting gifts, Dehn asked people instead to donate to the Make-A-Wish foundation.
“For 36 years, I had always helped people. I figured it was just one more way of helping somebody out,” Dehn said. “It’s not about me. It’s about him.”
Family, friends, co-workers and community members threw in to help out, and Dehn said fellow firefighter Brian Bonovetz was instrumental in a team fundraising effort.
Dehn hopes this gift might inspire other people to help families in need.
Sarah Voight said the American Family Children’s Hospital had reached out to the family to tell them the Portage Fire Department had raised money for them.
“It’s just awesome,” Sarah Voight said. “It really amazes me to see people we don’t even know pull together to raise money for him.”
Rebecca Hildebrandt, who works for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, met an energetic Lucas and his family at the Portage Fire Department on Friday. The Voight family drove from Fall River, with Lucas rejoicing over a day off from school.
Hildebrandt brought a $1,977 check — and a promise of bottomless ice cream at Disney World, where the Voight family will travel in September.
“Is there cake?” Lucas asked in earnest.
“Yes,” Hildebrandt told him. He can have all the bacon, cotton candy and other treats he wanted when he stays at an Orlando resort with other Make-A-Wish kids.
Firefighters looked on with big smiles, suggesting Lucas could one day be a firefighter.
“These are the types of days we love,” Hildebrandt said. “The fact that Steve did it as part of his retirement is just incredible.”
The foundation fronts about $6,000 per wish, Hildebrandt said, adding that many private donors and business partners help make those gifts possible.
Lucas is one of 400 children in Wisconsin who will get their wish granted this year.
Lucas has one final chemotherapy session slated for March 15, and his cancer treatment officially ends April 8.
Sporting a blue and red Spiderman hoodie Friday, Lucas said that he loves Marvel, and he hopes to see some heroes and heroines at Disney World. His favorite superhero is Black Panther.
How did he feel to receive the gift?
“Kinda good,” he said.
What does he hope to do?
“I want to see some tigers,” Lucas said. “I’m going to buy something cool.”