GLENS FALLS — A Glens Falls firetruck showed up Saturday at 6-year-old Brayden Palmateer’s house.
It was not there to put out a fire, but to give Frank Squeo a ride to deliver some great news to Brayden, who has cystic fibrosis. His family is receiving a week long all-expenses paid vacation to Florida to see Disney World, Sea World and other attractions, thanks to Squeo’s nonprofit charity Baking Memories 4 Kids, which gives trips to families with children facing terminal or life-threatening illnesses.
Squeo walked up in front of Brayden’s house with a stuffed Mickey Mouse and a jar of chocolate chip cookies.
Brayden and his family will be staying in a special village for families of kids in wish programs with all kinds of amenities.
“They’re treated like royalty,” he said.
There are special themed days and a life-sized version of the game Candyland, according to Squeo.
“The game is 2 acres big and the kids are the pieces,” he said.
Brayden will be able to get on rides without waiting in line and stay on them for as long as he wants.
“It basically equates to him being the owner of the park,” Squeo joked.
Brayden seemed to be at a loss for words, but said he looked forward to “seeing all the stuff I’ve never seen before.”
He said Mickey Mouse is his favorite character.
“I told him you’re going down there and he told me ‘I can’t wait to see him,’” Squeo said.
His mother Sheryl Palmateer said Brayden was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was 2 weeks old. It limits his ability to breathe and causes persistent lung infections.
She said her son’s life has been an “up-and-down roller coaster — a lot of mysterious long-lasting illnesses, a lot of doctors’ visits, hospital stays.”
“It’s a lot of work and it’s a nice break to have — for him and for us,” she said.
Brayden requires breathing treatments and had to spend time in the hospital last year when he got pneumonia.
“I’m not sure I could deal with what he goes through,” said grandfather Steve Sweet.
Palmateer said Brayden is otherwise a normal kid who loves Legos, Minions and recently learned to ride his bike.
“He likes to go on nature walks. He loves to read,” she said.
Palmateer said Brayden has seen the commercials about Disney World and has wanted to go. She found out about the charity through a co-worker at her insurance agency, who had brought in the cookies.
Squeo, who owns a pool business, founded the charity in 2012. He had been diagnosed in 2007 with an advanced form of testicular cancer, which was caught just before it spread to his brain.
“If it wasn’t for a miracle, I wouldn’t have survived. I knew there was a reason for it,” he said.
Squeo has been giving away his cookies for years during the holidays and so that was a logical choice for a fundraiser. The cookies are made downstate during the holiday season. He has outsourced his recipe, but volunteers still help with packaging the cookies.
“If we sell enough cookies, we say yes to as many families as we can,” he said.
Squeo thanked all the supporters, especially the Bolton branch of TD Bank, which has bought a lot of cookies over the years.
The charity helped 15 people in its first year and has built over time. Last year, it gave trips to 47 families. Because of people’s generosity in buying the cookies, they have been able to award trips to 61 families this year.
“I had a hard time saying no,” he said.
The organization will have helped 143 families by the end of 2018, according to a news release.
Squeo, who has a seasonal home in Lake George, said he was glad to be helping a local family.
The Palmateers are very grateful.
“We’ll never, ever forget this — any of this. This will be ingrained in us forever,” Sheryl Palmateer said.