POLAND — A year ago, Carlene Gray suffered a stroke and now every time the 82-year-old tries to climb down the five steps to her yard, it’s a harrowing experience.

The boards wobble beneath her. She clutches the railing in fear and hangs on to whomever is there to help.

Carlene Gray gets a hug from great-granddaughter Lily Thibeault, who has been saving her allowance to pay for materials to build a ramp for her Grammy’s’ home. Sun journal photo by Andree Kehn

“Somebody has to be with her,” said Hope Priola, Gray’s granddaughter. “Getting her down the steps takes two or three people.”

So much for going to church. So much for sitting out in her rocking chair or just roaming her backyard when the weather is nice. Gray gets around all right with a walker, but walk down those stairs as they are now? Forget about it.

Enter Lily Thibeault, Gray’s great-granddaughter. Lily is 12 and there’s plenty she could do with her hard-earned allowance. She could be buying iTunes, for instance. She could be spending her dough on makeup or those cool kits she uses to make Slime.

But Lily has other ideas.


“Normally, when she gets her allowance, she wants to go shopping and for a while, she hadn’t done that,” Priola said.

As it turns out, Lily had been saving her allowance — every penny of it — because she knows her great-grandmother needs a ramp and she knows that ramps cost money.

“Trying to afford the lumber for it has been hard,” Priola said. “This is what my daughter has been saving for. She didn’t tell anybody, she just did it. When I found out, I cried. It just melted my heart.”

So far, Lily has scrounged up about $40 toward the ramp project. The family doesn’t even know yet how much the lumber will cost. But Lily got the ball rolling and her reasons are clear, even if she doesn’t talk about it much.

“I don’t want Grammy going down the stairs anymore,” she said, in a voice so soft and shy, it was barely a whisper.

Clearly Lily doesn’t intend to brag about her endeavor. She just wants her great-grandmother to be able to go outside and to do it safely.


“She loves her Grammy,” said Gray, a white-haired, bespectacled woman who smiles when asked about her great-granddaughter. “She loves her Grammy very much.”

Gray lives out on Johnson Hill Road, just beyond the edge of Tripp Pond. Lily lives miles away, in Lewiston, yet she and her great-grandmother have always gotten together as often as they could.

“We’d always go shopping together,” Gray said. “We watch out for one another.”

Since her stroke, Gray knows that she can’t garden like she used to. All that bending and digging is out of the question for now.

But that doesn’t mean she intends to resign herself to the indoors as summer approaches and the world blooms beyond the edge of those stairs.

“I want to be able to go out into the dooryard,” Gray said, “at the very at least.”


Priola said the family will keep saving and pooling their money to add to Lily’s stash. They will then begin the process of pricing out lumber so that Gray’s rickety porch can be replaced and a ramp added.

It’s hard to say when that will happen, Priola said. But because of Lily and her quiet determination, they’re $40 closer than they were before.

Not that Priola is all that surprised by her daughter’s unselfish plan.

“She’s very sweet, compassionate, loving and caring,” Priola said. “She’s just a very good kid.”


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