Friday 20 April 2018

I've bin having a trashing time, says wannabe dustman Ethan, six

Ethan gets a high-five while carried by Captain Recycle, Mitch Zak, during one of his stops (Sacramento Bee/AP)
Ethan gets a high-five while carried by Captain Recycle, Mitch Zak, during one of his stops (Sacramento Bee/AP)

Most small boys yearn to be a superhero, the next Lewis Hamilton, a hot-shot pilot, or maybe the owner of the world's largest train set, but Ethan Dean's dream was, quite simply, rubbish.

Six-year-old Ethan from California, who suffers with cystic fibrosis, has always wanted to be a dustman and his favourite playthings are toy refuse collection lorries - and of course he loves to watch the real ones drive past his house.

But on Tuesday a thrilled Ethan got his wish, riding shotgun in a booster seat through Sacramento as an honest-to-goodness refuse lorry driver with a set of wheels labelled "Ethan's rubbish Truck".

He donned a green cape that read "Hero Ethan" and a big smile as the lorry stopped to pick up rubbish and recyclables.

It wasn't a chore for Ethan, who said his favourite part of the day organised by the Make-A-Wish Foundation was "cleaning up rubbish" as hundreds of people gathered to cheer him on.

After being surprised at his school, Ethan and the dustcart made five stops.

Sam Thurman, the Waste Management employee who drove Ethan, said when he agreed to take part, he had no idea how big the day was going to be.

And Ethan? "He can't wipe that grin off his face," Mr Thurman said. "He looks like it's Christmas morning and he's unwrapping his first present."

Ethan was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as an infant and began treatment at eight weeks old. The genetic disorder is characterised by a build-up of thick mucus and frequent lung infections, and the average life expectancy is about 40.

When Make-A-Wish Foundation agreed to make his day in February, there was little doubt what he wanted it to be.

"We pretty much knew it was going to be about rubbish trucks," said Ethan's father Ken Dean.

Ethan been watching them come down the street since he first learned how to crawl, Mr Dean said. He also has a refuse lorry bedspread and pillow, toys and has had a dustcart birthday party.

Ethan's big day came three years after Make-A-Wish transformed San Francisco into Gotham for a five-year-old boy who had battled leukaemia for years and dreamed of being Batkid.

Miles Scott travelled from one crime scene to another, rescuing a damsel in distress and thwarting the plans of The Riddler and The Penguin, as crowds of people cheered him on.

Ethan's dream is being a less fantastic, more everyday superhero. When he visited Make-A-Wish and was asked about some of his dreams, almost all of his answers were dustcart related, said Jennifer Stolo, CEO of the local chapter of the charity.

Ethan's uncle Tim Dean said it meant a lot to the family to have people who did not even know him come out to celebrate.

At least 500 people gathered for a press conference and VIP lunch at the end of Ethan's day.

Erika Sizemore said she learned about Ethan's special day on social media. It hit home for her, she said, because she has two boys, Kane and Benny, who also love dustcarts.

"As soon as he got out of the truck I cried," she said.

"It could happen to any of our kids. He is an amazing little kid and I just think that any of could be in the same boats as his parents are."


Press Association

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