Christmas comes early for local boy

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BELLOWS FALLS — Make-A-Wish Vermont and the Lions Club of Manchester made a special Christmas wish come true for a little boy who is fighting an aggressive form of brain cancer. An entire community came together so that 5-year-old Michael Everett Vose, of Brattleboro, could experience a bit of holiday magic in October.

Against a backdrop of red and yellow trees, Michael, his parents, and their extended friends and family all climbed aboard a special train that was donated for the day by Green Mountain Railroad. The newly dubbed Lil'man Express had arrived in Bellows Falls on Oct. 27 and with it, Christmas had come early.

The train station had been transformed into the North Pole, complete with Santa and Mrs. Claus and a handful of elves — all illuminated by hundreds of twinkling lights. On board the train — a Green Mountain rail car decked out for the holidays — Michael and his guests were served hot cocoa and cookies while costumed volunteers from the Lions Club of Manchester read from his favorite holiday story book to set the scene. Christmas carols were sung, hugs were exchanged, and the Christmas spirit came alive.

"The true magic of this wish is how quickly it came together," said Jamie Hathaway, president & CEO of Make-A-Wish Vermont. "Once we told people of Michael's condition and his wish to take a train to the North Pole to visit Santa, we had volunteers willing to do all they could, as fast as they could, to make it happen. We could not be more grateful to the Vermont Reindeer Farm, the Lions Club of Manchester, and the Green Mountain Railroad for pulling out all the stops to make Christmas come early for Michael and his family."

This wish came together over the course of just one week, thanks to the generosity of a number of Vermont businesses and individuals. Green Mountain Railroad donated the use of a rail car along with an engineer to drive it, and scores of volunteers donated their time to make the day magical, including groups from Franklin Pierce College and the Lions Club of Manchester.

"The motto of the Manchester Lions Club is `We Serve'," said Joe Charbonneau, who played the role of Conductor Joe and serves as a board member of the Manchester Lions Club. "It was an honor for us to work with Make-A-Wish Vermont to make life a lot brighter for this child and his family. These are the things that epitomize our mission."

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