Xavier gets his wish to be a wrestler

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Xavier Gilbert, 6, grins as he practices a wrestling hold called the half nelson on his partner, Lake Region Union High School wrestler John Stafford.  Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph
Xavier Gilbert, 6, grins as he practices a wrestling hold called the half nelson on his partner, Lake Region Union High School wrestler John Stafford. Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

copyright the Chronicle March 11, 2015 

by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

Xavier Gilbert, six, was all smiles Monday evening when the NEK Python and Lake Region Union High School wrestlers invited him to join their practice in the Lake Region cafeteria.

He was diagnosed with leukemia March 13, 2014. Shortly thereafter his doctor recommended Xavier for the Make a Wish program.

He met his wish-granters, or fairy godparents, Christine Joyce and Jeannie Chase, during the summer.

“Being a wish-granter is something to do to give to the kids,” said Ms. Joyce. “They go through a lot. It’s fun to see them smile.”

When they discovered his love for wrestling, they spoke to another wish granter, Judy Moulton, who contacted Lake Region Athletic Coordinator and Assistant Principal Eric Degre on their behalf in November.

The Lake Region wrestlers were ready to welcome Xavier earlier but had to wait for his doctor’s okay.

“My guys have really been looking forward to it,” Mr. Degre said. “It’s a great way for these kids to give back to their community.”

After a few warm-up exercises, wrestlers were paired up and practiced different techniques. Finally they wrestled each other in minute-and-a-half bouts while parents looked on.

“I thought it was pretty fun,” Lake Region wrestler John Stafford said of being partnered with Xavier for most of the event. “He has it down naturally.”

Pictured, from left to right, are Joseph Gilbert, Alex Gilbert, 2, Serena Gilbert, 7, Kalica Gilbert, and Xavier Gilbert, 6, who will spend one week in Disney World as part of his wish.
Pictured, from left to right, are Joseph Gilbert, Alex Gilbert, 2, Serena Gilbert, 7, Kalica Gilbert, and Xavier Gilbert, 6, who will spend one week in Disney World as part of his wish.

Xavier had followed John around the wrestling mat, imitating everything he did as people watched and shouted encouragement.

Kalica Gilbert, Xavier’s mother, said Xavier has loved wrestling since birth and watches the sport on television and YouTube. His favorite wrestlers are the Undertaker and John Cena.

After a sick child has been referred to Make a Wish, the foundation double checks with the physician that the child has an eligible illness.

An e-mail goes out to all wish granters in the child’s area and two of them go for a visit. They gather more information about the child and his wish by playing games and talking with him.

“Our job is to bring back the magic and excitement to their lives,” Ms. Moulton said. “We never talk about their illness with them.”

There are four wish categories — meeting someone, being someone, going somewhere and having something. Afterwards, the child’s doctor determines if he is well enough for his wish, and if so, what the child’s limitations might be.

Xavier’s wish was to go to Disney World. He and his family will leave soon for a weeklong trip to the amusement park.

Long-time wish-granter Judy Moulton baked a chocolate cake topped with wrestling figurines (pictured here) for Xavier’s event.
Long-time wish-granter Judy Moulton baked a chocolate cake topped with wrestling figurines (pictured here) for Xavier’s event.

“Sometimes there’s a long wait between when the child makes a wish and when the wish is granted,” Ms. Moulton said. “Make a Wish gives us a budget that we put towards giving small gifts to the child to remind him that we haven’t forgotten about his wish.”

Monday night’s wrestling event was one of those reminders for Xavier, but it would not have been possible on the $150 enhancement budget the Vermont Make a Wish chapter allocates to wish granters.

NEK Python wrestlers, in the front, and Lake Region wrestlers, in the back, pose with their guest, Xavier Gilbert, who is in the front row, second from the right. Pictured, in the front, from left to right, are Willie Elman, Cuzian Comeau-Elman, Xavier, and Austin Lathe.  In the middle are Nick Stone, Bryan Stafford Derek Guillette, Noah Simpson, Cally Sanville, Austin Descheneau, and Francis Stafford.  In the back are Coach Richard Roberts, Colin Allard, Joshua Roberts, Logan Dolloff, Isabel Wildflower, Kaleb Gibson, John Stafford, Bryce Patenaude, and Coach Wesley Nutter.
NEK Python wrestlers, in the front, and Lake Region wrestlers, in the back, pose with their guest, Xavier Gilbert, who is in the front row, second from the right. Pictured, in the front, from left to right, are Willie Elman, Cuzian Comeau-Elman, Xavier, and Austin Lathe. In the middle are Nick Stone, Bryan Stafford Derek Guillette, Noah Simpson, Cally Sanville, Austin Descheneau, and Francis Stafford. In the back are Coach Richard Roberts, Colin Allard, Joshua Roberts, Logan Dolloff, Isabel Wildflower, Kaleb Gibson, John Stafford, Bryce Patenaude, and Coach Wesley Nutter.

“Wish granters all deal with it differently, but they generally ask for in-kind donations,” said Shawna Wakeham-Smith, the Vermont chapter wish-granting director.

After discovering Xavier was six years old, Mr. Degre contacted NEK Python Coach Robert Richards to be part of the event, since the Python wrestlers are about the same age as Xavier.

The Pythons gave Xavier a singlet, two medals, and a sweat suit, and parents donated protective headgear and shoes. The school donated its cafeteria to host the event, and coaches of both teams donated their time.

Ms. Moulton baked a chocolate cake featuring small wrestling figurines, and the wish-granters bought pizza with the enhancement money.

“It’s great,” said Mr. Roberts. “I love doing stuff like this. We want it to be a special night for him.”

Xavier nodded his head vigorously when asked if he enjoyed the evening. He said his own wrestling name is Super.

After the wrestling, team members and Xavier enjoyed pizza and cake.

contact Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph at [email protected]

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