Adam Brass, 8, of Bailey, had an unusual request for the Kids Wish Network – he wanted a greenhouse so he could grow vegetables.
Karen Brass, Adam’s mother, said the request was a surprise to the Kids Wish Network, which is based in Florida but has offices all over the country. In the three decades it’s been operating, there has never been a wish quite like Adam’s.
“Usually kids ask for trips to Disneyland or a trip to California,” Karen Brass said.
But then, many kids aren’t like Adam.
“My son’s unique,” she said.
The Kids Wish Network is a nonprofit organization dedicated to infusing hope, creating happy memories, and improving the quality of life for children afflicted with a life-threatening condition or illness.
Adam was diagnosed at birth with cerebral palsy, a condition that affects muscle movement and coordination. He also suffers from Asperger Syndrom, which Karen Brass described as a form of high-functioning autism characterized by an intense focus by Adam on things that interest him, dyslexia and airway reactive disorder, which restricts his airway and causes him to need oxygen every day.
Adam also has a fragile immune system, so he can’t be around other kids if they are sick. And if he gets a cold or the flu, it takes him weeks to recover, or it could be fatal.
“Every time he catches the cold or a flu, we all hold our breath,” Karen Brass said.
She said the family has a lot of medical equipment at home to treat Adam’s illnesses. A former nurse, Karen Brass left that profession to focus on caring for her family. Karen and David Brass also have a daughter, Shannah, 10, who suffers from dyslexia.
Karen Brass now is a sales director for Mary Kay, which gives her the flexibility she needs to be there for her children.
David Brass, Adam’s father, gave his wife a lot of credit for Adam’s progression. Karen Brass found therapy for Adam, and advocates for her son.
He also said his wife helped him become a better father.
Karen Brass said Adam is lucky because most children with Asperger don’t make eye contact, and lack empathy. But not Adam. She said he is a “hugger” who gives everybody big hugs.
There are many things that interest Adam, including paleontology and horticulture.
“He’s got a high ability to focus on things and go all the way with it,” Karen Brass said.
And lately he’s set his focus on vegetables.
Karen Smart said Adam’s interest in vegetables grew from a desire to help his grandfather, who was diagnosed with cancer.
Part of the cancer treatment was a specific diet filled with vegetables.
“Adam was aware that if we eat more vegetables, we could be more healthy,” Karen Brass said. And if Adam’s grandfather ate healthy vegetables, he would be around longer. She said Adam’s goal was to prolong his grandfather’s life by five years with his vegetables.
The Brass family has a family garden, but because of the mountain climate, the growing season is shortened. Adam would start plants in the house and transplant them into the garden when the weather was appropriate. A greenhouse would allow him to expand his growing season and produce more vegetables.
So when asked what he wanted most, he asked for something that would benefit his entire family.
Karen Brass said the Kids Wish Network asked Adam if a greenhouse wasn’t possible, might he have a second wish?
According to his mother, the answer was no.
“Nothing,” Adam said. “I have everything else I need.”
So the Kids Wish Network set out to make Adam’s dream come true.
That’s where Pat and Jill Groulx, owners of Comi Construction in Pine, came in.
Jill Groulx said she agreed tentatively to help out with the construction of Adam’s greenhouse. They had called her out of the blue asking if Comi Construction was interested in helping fulfil Adam’s wish.
Once she researched the Kids Wish Network and learned more about Adam’s condition, she was on board. And so was her husband.
“Pat really didn’t have much of a choice,” she said.
Adam’s case was close to Jill Groulx’s heart, she said. She has family members with autism, so she wanted to help make Adam’s dream come true, she said.
So she rallied friends and neighbors willing to donate their time to help put together the greenhouse. She knew it building the greenhouse could be tricky because she had friends who had built on in the past and she wanted to make sure there was plenty of help available.
The greenhouse was donated in full by International Greenhouse, an online greenhouse kit and equipment store, along with an irrigation system from Dripworks USA, based in Willits, Calif. A misting system and a heater was donated by Greenhouse Outlet, based in Meridian, Idaho, and seeds were donated by Winslow, Maine-based Johnny’s Selected Seeds and the Denver-based Rocky Mountain Seed Co.
Lumber for the project was donated by Pine Junction-based Hutchison Lumber and work was done by Comi Construction. Crossroads Pizza in Pine Junction donated food for the volunteers.
Jill Groulx said they had trouble tracking down lumber for the project because they needed untreated lumber. Because of Adam’s allergies and cerebral palsy, they wanted to avoid treated lumber.
“We needed cedar or redwood,” she said. “It’s not cheap when you go with that kind of wood.”
But almost at the last minute, Hutchison Lumber came through by obtaining the lumber and donating it to the project.
Jill Groulx got the call from the Kids Wish Network in late May about working on the project. It took almost a month to coordinate all the volunteers, and once the day of construction arrived, it wasn’t smooth sailing.
The construction took two days because the instructions for the greenhouse were for a different greenhouse kit, leaving the volunteers to figure out how to put it together on their own.
Construction began about 8 a.m. on June 27 and spilled over into June 28, but in the end it was a success.
“We figured it out,” she said. “We made it work.”
And Adam had his greenhouse.
Karen Brass said Adam was involved during the construction.
He would fetch the volunteers drinks, and after construction was done, Adam invited all the volunteers back for a barbecue for the first harvest.
He also gave the volunteers cherry tomato plants that he had started in the Brass’ home.
Karen Brass said that Adam would be selling some of the vegetables he grows at a stand he has in front of his house.
He already sells eggs and fossils he collects to neighbors, so it seemed natural that he add produce to his list of wares. Adam will go into the third grade in the fall, but he’s been manning the stand since he was in kindergarten.
If you ask him, he would say he wants to be a paleontologist, said Karen Brass. “I think he’ll probably be a salesman.”
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