Family, friends and supporters of Wesley Nixon, a 4-year-old Fortuna boy fighting leukemia, gathered Saturday afternoon at the Mercer-Fraser gravel and rock yard to surprise him with a trip to Diggerland USA, a construction theme park in New Jersey, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Wesley’s mother, Cyndi Nixon, said her son is a self-proclaimed construction site and heavy equipment enthusiast.
“He’s been naming the different types of equipment since he was two,” Nixon said. “We’ll be driving and he’ll yell out, “Mom, that’s an excavator!”
On Saturday, Wesley was given the opportunity to pick up gravel — and then dump it, which made the young boy smile wide — while driving both a backhoe and an excavator before being given his itinerary for the trip to Diggerland later this month.
Rick Bennett, a local volunteer affiliate of the Make-A-Wish foundation, heard of Wesley’s wish to visit Diggerland. Along with helping Wesley receive his wish, Bennett wanted to help organize a send-off party for Wesley.
Bennett contacted Linda Wise, General Manager of Eel River Recology which has been a supporter of Make-A-Wish for years, to see if Wesley could be allowed to operate a few pieces of the heavy equipment which he is so fond of. Wise then coordinated with Justin Zable, owner of Mercer-Fraser, to see if they would let Wesley operate some of their equipment.
“I heard of Wesley’s story and wanted to help give the little tyke a great send off,” Wise said.
First District Supervisor Rex Bohn, who had a hand in facilitating the sendoff as well, was waiting with a custom-fitted yellow work jacket and glasses for Wesley when he arrived. “I’m honored to be a part of this,” Bohn said. “Wesley just wants to get outside and work, which is so admirable, and that’s a tribute to his parents for giving their son such a strong work ethic so young.”
Wesley’s love of heavy machinery began before he could walk, according to his grandfather Tim Lalonde.
“I own a backhoe and Wesley has been riding it with me since he could stand,” Lalonde said.
Wesley’s enthusiasm for construction equipment has played a key role in helping him stay positive during his fight with leukemia, which began in November 2016.
Wesley’s condition calls for frequent trips to the UC Davis medical center where he endures lengthy hospital stays. Nixon said her son has been able to endure in part because of the construction of a parking garage which is viable from the hospital wing Wesley usually stays in.
“He’ll ask us to put his bed by the window so he can look out at the construction sight,” she said. “He’d rather watch that than anything else.”
Even when at home, Wesley opts to watch YouTube videos of construction sights in favor of cartoons.
Road work delays are a veritable vista for Wesley who according to his aunt Brenda Nixon loves watching the workers and work-equipment in action.
“He not only loves watching the construction, but he knows how it all works better than most people do,” she said.