JAY — Last January, two students at Jay Elementary School were surprised when they returned home from a family vacation to discover that wishes do come true.

Josh Brochu had wanted his bedroom to resemble a parking lot, with a McDonald’s drive-through window and an O-gauge model train running around the ceiling, all under a blue sky. Make-A-Wish Maine did all that and redid his sister Brooke’s bedroom, too.

Josh, 11, and Brooke, 8, suffer from a rare genetic disease, ataxia-telangiectasia, or A-T. It is a neuro-degenerative disease that attacks the part of the brain that controls motor skills and the immune system.

A-T is marked by a progressive loss of muscle control, eventual immune system problems and a strikingly high rate of cancer, especially leukemia and lymphoma.

Affected children are usually in wheelchairs by the age of 10, according to the A-T Children’s Project, a nonprofit organization that raises money for research and supports families with children diagnosed with A-T.

The children’s father, Chris Brochu, was contacted by Make-A-Wish four days before Christmas last year. He said the two children have been enjoying their rooms all year.


“The first day he was in there, Josh only came out to eat and go to the bathroom,” he said. “That (bedroom) is his little haven, so Make-A-Wish did a good job. They’re unreal, unbelievable.”

The disease has progressed to the point where Josh is in his power wheelchair at all times.

“At school, he’s trying to use a walker for strength building,” Chris Brochu said. “He’s holding his own. His sister is starting to transition into a walker, if her balance is getting off.”

Make-A-Wish continues to support the family, getting them out to events like Portland Seadogs baseball games.

“We’re doing all right,” Chris said of himself, his wife, Lisa, and their children. “We take it as it comes.”

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