MINT HILL – It’s not often you have the chance to become a fireman and meet princesses in the same day – but that’s exactly what 6-year-old Timmy Brakman will experience this weekend.
Timmy was born with a congenital heart defect called transposition of the great arteries, double outlet right ventricle, or TGA, DORV, and has experienced two open-heart surgeries. He was adopted from an orphanage in China, along with now 3-year-old Kate, about a year and a half ago.
“We had seen a picture of him on the website for an adoption agency and just knew immediately … instantly that he was our child,” Cindy Brakman, Timmy’s mom, said.
Timmy’s condition is not fixable, his mom said. He’ll be able to receive a heart transplant in his late teens or early 20s, but until then palliative surgery is the only option.
“Putting a Band-Aid on it but not fixing it is the most logical thing I could say,” Brakman said.
The Brakmans connected with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants the wishes of children who have life-threatening medical conditions. Timmy’s wish was to be a firefighter and meet a princess, which led his family to the Mint Hill Madness parade.
Sheryl Smith, assistant to the Mint Hill town manager, said the town was looking for someone special to serve as the parade’s grand marshal and reached out to the Make-A-Wish Foundation for suggestions. The foundation put town representatives in touch with Timmy and his family, who live in Mooresville.
“Typically, whoever is the title sponsor of (Mint Hill Madness) is the grand marshal of the parade,” Smith said. “This year, the town is the title sponsor. We wanted it to have some meaning. We wanted to make it special – to make it different.”
Timmy will have the chance to ride on a fire truck during the parade, which will take place Saturday, May 24, at 10 a.m. The parade will begin at the Food Lion at 8118 Blair Road and continue along N.C. 51, ending at Brighton Park. Timmy also will have the second part of his wish fulfilled – meeting not just one but multiple “princesses.”
“We’re making arrangements for him to meet all of the beauty queens in Mecklenburg (County),” Smith said.
The town didn’t want Kate to feel left out, so organizers are dubbing her “Miss Mint Hill Madness.” She’ll ride alongside her brother in the parade – something Brakman said will be extremely exciting for her daughter, since Kate also loves princesses. Kate also has a chronic illness – thalassemia, which causes anemia.
Brakman said having her son chosen as the parade’s grand marshal has been a humbling yet exciting experience for the entire family, including her husband, Bryce, and her three biological children – Beau, 17, Megan, 15, and Wesley, 13.
“At first, we were a bit overwhelmed, thinking there was somebody else far more deserving” of the honor, she said. “But we’re more than happy to lead the parade. We’re trying to explain to Tim and Kate this is not a normal event – it’s a super big deal, like Christmas day … It’s exactly what we wanted, for (Timmy) to be a normal 6-year-old boy.”