Franklin teens gets new ride from Make-a-Wish Foundation

  •  “Wish granter” Alexis O’Neil of Canterbury and New Hampshire’s Make-A-Wish- Foundation CEO Julie Baron of Guilford present AutoServ employees Joe Shore and Shawn Ivester with a plaque Friday night to thank them for their work on Bryan Underhill’s car.  — LEAH WILLINGHAM/ Monitor staff

  • Bryan Underhill, 18, watches on as his new Dodge R/V is unveiled at the Nissan AutoServ in Tilton on Friday night.  — LEAH WILLINGHAM/ Monitor staff

  • Colleen Ryan lifts her glass to toast Bryan Underhill at his Make-A-Wish “reveal” in Tilton on Friday night. Ryan, who is a close friend of Bryan’s mother, Melissa (second from the right), offered Bryan her kidney when she found out he needed a transplant. Bryan’s siblings Brittany and Bradyn, 7, stand beside them.  — LEAH WILLINGHAM/ Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Saturday, September 09, 2017

A year ago, Bryan Underhill wasn’t sure if he would make it through his senior year of high school.

Underhill, 18, who had experienced kidney trouble since he was a child, found out his kidney was failing – and that he needed a transplant, fast.

“Those were definitely some of the scariest moments of my life,” Underhill’s mother, Melissa Underhill, remembered.

But the family found the support they needed. Melissa’s good friend and colleague at Franklin Regional Hospital, Colleen Ryan, ended up being a kidney match for Bryan – and offered to give him hers. The Underhills also reached out to the Make-A-Wish Foundation to see if they could offer something to improve Bryan’s morale through his surgeries and treatments.

Bryan had bought a beat-up 2013 Dodge Avenger not too long before, and he asked if Make-A-Wish could refurbish it for him, not expecting anything out of it.

Friday night, six months after a successful kidney transplant and recovery, Bryan’s wish was granted.

Around 6 p.m., an entourage of 10 police cars, a fire truck and a limousine picked up Bryan, his mother and his two siblings, Brittany and Bradyn, from their Franklin home and transported them to the Nissan showroom at AutoServ in Tilton. The experience was especially special for Bryan, who says he wants to be a police officer.

Bryan was presented with his new car, which was transformed to look like a Dodge R/T with two-tone black and white leather seats, a new stereo system, authentic R/T wheels and a rear spoiler. AutoServ’s Service Director Joe Shore, who worked on the car for a month, said the vehicle is now worth twice as much as it was when Bryan bought it.

Bryan is a Patriots fan, and Make-A-Wish filled the car with Patriots paraphernalia, including a signed photo of his favorite player, Malcolm Butler. When he saw it for the first time, the only way Bryan could describe how he felt was “complete shock.”

“I never could have predicted that this would be my life,” he said, covering his mouth with his hands. “I don’t even know how to react.”

This past year marks the 30th anniversary of New Hampshire’s chapter of the Make-A-Wish-Foundation.

The Foundation grants “wishes” to children as young as 2 ½ with life-threatening illnesses. In the past, they have granted wishes such as beach vacations, meetings with a member of the Patriots and trips to the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards. The average cost for a wish is $10,000, according to Nikki Lahey, the foundation’s director for community outreach. In the last fiscal year, which ended on Aug. 31, Lahey said the organization granted 82 wishes to kids throughout the state.

Lahey said she and members of the foundation call wish granting “the medicine of hope.”

“The wishes give (kids) something to look forward to other than the next protocol and next treatment plan,” she said.

Alexis O’Neil, a volunteer “wish granter,” who has worked on fulfilling Bryan’s wish for the last few months, said the best part of the night was “seeing Bryan’s face” when the car was unveiled. It made all the effort worth it, she said. “I can’t believe how special this has been,” she said. “He got everything he wanted and a  little more.”