- Associated Press - Saturday, December 24, 2016

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) - All Jaime Garcia wants for Christmas is a monster truck.

He has plenty in the miniature, but the 11-year-old had his heart set on the real deal, a massive vehicle with tires nearly as tall as he is.

Jaime has juvenile Huntington’s disease, a rare and fatal genetic disorder that causes the breakdown of nerve cells in the brain, affecting speech, movement and mood.

Thanksgiving this year was hard, because Jaime’s teachers and parents decided it was best for him to stop attending public school and work with a teacher at home instead.

When Jaime’s former teachers from Nisley Elementary School, Dean Hall and Shea Robison, heard that he wouldn’t go to school anymore, they wanted to find something to make the holidays special this year.

“Ever since third grade he’s had an obsession with monster trucks,” Robison said. “He hates writing, but if we could get anything with monster trucks involved, he was all about it.”

Jaime was diagnosed in May, but his teachers have seen him struggle with symptoms for years. Last year was the worst so far.

“As the year went on, he had a harder and harder time walking,” Hall said. “He was still a fantastic young man. He was a joy to have, always laughing and really fun to have in class.”

Knowing that medical bills can be a heavy load, Hall and Robison wanted to find a way to make sure Jaime and his family had a good Christmas.

Juan Garcia, Jaime’s dad, said the teachers called him out of the blue with the proposition. Robison knew a friend with a 1978 Ford F-150 sporting 36-inch wheels. Would Jaime be interested in going for a ride?

Yes, Garcia said, he would. On Monday afternoon, Jaime’s Christmas wish came true.

Jaime started smiling when the doorbell rang on Monday afternoon and Robison walked in with AJ Naponic, the truck’s owner, and a remote-control monster truck.

There was a much bigger version waiting outside, they said.

The 11-year-old’s eyes lit up as soon as the front door opened and he saw the hulking truck parked across the street. He pointed at it in awe.

“This is so cool,” Jaime said as Garcia pushed his son’s wheelchair across the street.

His smile got even wider when his dad lifted him onto the passenger seat.

After a few false starts - monster trucks don’t like the cold, Naponic said - they were off for the ride of a lifetime.

“Even though (Hall and Robison) got to work with Jaime for the longest time, we never expected them to help out, to do this for him,” Garcia said. “They went above and beyond, and we’re really thankful.”

Jaime, Garcia and Naponic cruised the back roads to a free lunch at Palisade Brewing Co. with Robison, Hall and the rest of the family.

“The whole ride down, he said ‘I love it, I love it, I want to get one, we need to get one,’” Garcia said, laughing. “It was a good experience and a good memory.”

___

Information from: The Daily Sentinel, https://www.gjsentinel.com


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