TALLMADGE — As Tallmadge Middle School students and staff celebrated the last day of school Wednesday with an assembly of singing, music and more, seventh-grader Ian Alaniz watched with his family.
Ian, 14, had no idea he was about to become the star of the assembly's finale.
Volunteers from Make-A-Wish Foundation had been working with community members before this day to grant a couple of Ian's wishes: getting a wheelchair-accessible treehouse and riding in a firetruck.
Make-A-Wish volunteers joined Tallmadge Mayor David Kline and city firefighters at the assembly to make the surprise announcement that both his wishes were coming true, much to the delight of Ian and his family.
“We are just so excited,” said his mother, Darlene.
Payne and Payne Builders in Chardon will construct the treehouse on the family’s property.
After the assembly, members of the Tallmadge Fire Department were on hand, with one of their ladder trucks, to take Ian home. Once there, Matt Hollingsworth, the owner of The Venue, Firehouse Grille & Pub and Danny Boys, planned to provide food for the family at their house.
Everyone at the assembly cheered and applauded as Ian put on a fireman’s coat and plastic fireman’s hat before his ride in the ladder truck. Ian was all smiles as he and his family went out to the truck, which was parked in front of the middle school.
The ladder truck left the school with lights flashing and sirens blaring.
Make-A-Wish volunteer Michelle Fought said the organization grants wishes for children with life-threatening conditions. Make-A-Wish operates strictly through donations.
Ian has "a really rare seizure disorder" and cerebral folate deficiency, according to his mother. The disorder can cause developmental delays or regression, seizures, loss of nerve cells and other issues, according to the National Institutes of Health.
“Every person we called in Tallmadge, when we said we were doing something for a Tallmadge Middle School student, they were all on board,” Fought said during the assembly. “They all asked, ‘What can we do to help?’ That says so much about your community.”
Tallmadge Middle School assistant principal Kim Hussing said that the school is "just really happy Ian got his wish granted.”
“He deserves it,” Hussing said. “I hope that all summer he gets to enjoy that treehouse.”
April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @AprilKHelms_RPC