By JOHN HOWELL Travis Williams is a boy. He's 10. Yet he knows what he wants - a man cave. On Valentine's Day, the Cranston fourth-grader - who suffers from a rare congenital disorder known as caudal regression syndrome - learned he would get what he
Travis Williams is a boy. He’s 10. Yet he knows what he wants – a man cave.
On Valentine’s Day, the Cranston fourth-grader – who suffers from a rare congenital disorder known as caudal regression syndrome – learned he would get what he wished for.
Man caves can’t be ordered off the floor at a lumber company or online from Amazon. And that’s what made his wish so unusual for Diane Florio Penza, executive director of imPossible Dream in Warwick.
When the Associates of the Rhode Island State Police, or ARITA, a charitable organization that supports Rhode Island state troopers and various community programs, donated $3,000 in December, Penza immediately earmarked the money for Travis’ wish and set about soliciting donations and lining up volunteers to build, furnish and decorate Travis’ man cave, with assistance from the Rhode Island State Police.
On Thursday afternoon, Travis and his mother, Kadie Williams, drove to the imPossible Dream playground and office that is part of the Toll Gate Educational Complex. Travis had been told his mother would be meeting state police who wanted to talk to her about her driving habits. But once inside, the balloons, the signs, the reporters and TV camera crews were a giveaway that something else would be taking place. And then Travis’ grandparents and other relatives, as well as his longtime pediatric nurse practitioner, Linda Del Vecchio, were there, too.
Travis discovered he was the center of attention. He handled it with poise. With cameras trained on him, he answered questions asked by Rhode Island State Police Major Christopher Dicomitis about what could be found in a man cave. A wide-screen TV was first on Travis’ list, and then he agreed with Dicomitis the cave should also have comfortable furniture – and, of course, sports memorabilia from New England teams.
It would all come together thanks to the efforts of many donors who stood behind Travis.
Michael Winter, president of Builders Surplus, which is donating much of the construction material, was there, as were Ron and Pete Cardi of Cardi’s Furniture, who are donating the couch and other furnishings. Steven Barbato of Stevie B. Sports Memorabilia of Warwick came with framed prints to decorate the man cave. Barbato and Bob Tasca Jr. of Tasca Automotive Group presented Travis with an autographed Rob Gronkowski game shirt, as well as framed photos from the Patriots’ recent Super Bowl victory.
Travis was in awe of the jersey, inspecting it closely. “He signed it,” he said in disbelief.
Detective Courtney Elliott of the Rhode Island Troopers Association presented a separate check for $250 in Travis’ name to imPossible Dream, so that Travis can pay it forward by helping some other child’s dream come true. She also gave Travis a small statue of a Rhode Island State Police trooper and a framed patch for his room.
Travis took to heart a pair of autographed boxing gloves given him by Michael Valentin. He put them on. A Rhode Island boxer, Valentin made national headlines last year when he disclosed after a winning match at Twin River Casino that he has worn a colostomy bag since birth. He was immediately suspended from fighting by the local athletic commission, though doctors have since cleared him to fight again.
Valentin’s story resonated for Travis. He is facing medical challenges of his own.
Travis is scheduled to undergo another major surgery in two weeks. But he has his man cave to look forward to. The home garage will become the cave with work expected to be completed this spring.
Penza thanked all involved with contributing to Travis’ man cave. “God bless people – they are so generous when it comes to making dreams come true for children.”