Twelve-year-old Liam F. McCarthy of Vineyard Haven was honored last Saturday at a fundraising dinner at the Holy Ghost Society in Oak Bluffs. Through the efforts of many, the dinner raised $5,000.
Liam and his family were seeking financial help to cover the cost of a walking aid, a device that will make movement easier, plus a three-wheeled bicycle. Neither purchases are covered by insurance, his mother Kelly McGuiggin said. For her, the evening dinner offered hope.
Ms. McGuiggin said Liam had a massive stroke before birth. Over the years he has had a number of surgeries, almost one every 6 to 12 months, to give him more mobility. Ms. McGuiggin said his affliction holds him back from doing many things that youngsters his age can do. But, she said: “He is a very determined little boy.” The next step on his journey is learning to use a walking aid that will stimulate the nerves and muscles in his legs, she said. The bicycle will also give him a better sense of independence.
Buying Liam a bicycle was a big part of the Holy Ghost Society fundraiser and why Gina deBettencourt of Oak Bluffs sought to organize the event. Mrs. deBettencourt is the head cook at the Edgartown School. She said: “Oh my God. This boy has never ridden a bicycle before?”
Liam is a sixth grader at the West Tisbury School and he was all smiles at the Saturday dinner. He noted that many of his friends were there.
Ms. McGuiggin, a mother of five children, said the idea for the fundraiser arose six months ago in a conversation she had with Mrs. deBettencourt.
Mrs. deBettencourt said she met Liam while assisting as a chaperone last October when 70 Island youngsters attended Camp W. Alton Jones in West Greenwich, R.I. She said she was touched by the boy’s can-do attitude, despite his challenges.
“That kid never once complained,” she said. “He always had a smile on his face. He had the hardest time walking up the hills with the others, but he did it and did it with a smile on his face.”
Of the evening gathering, Mrs. deBettencourt said she was impressed by the number of people across the community who showed up.
“I was struck by how so many people came. The Vineyard is a wonderful place. People come through. They always take care of the kids.”
Liam’s mother was equally moved.
“I just want to say that I am overwhelmed,” Ms. McGuiggin said. “Every day I have been brought to tears, that this community has been so loving and kind and supporting for me and my family.”
The evening’s contributions came short of the $8,000 goal. Additional contributions can be sent to You’ve Got a Friend, P.O. Box 1317, West Tisbury, MA 02575. Checks can be made out to YGAF with a note saying it is to help Liam.