The rising door revealed a garage full of family and friends surrounding a new boat.
“Wish granted,” everyone yelled as 15-year-old Brooks continued to stare in disbelief.
The Spring Lake boy received the 15-foot Carolina Skiff through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“I love it,” said Brooks, who is now a healthy freshman at Grand Haven High School.
It hasn’t been an easy road back to this point. When he was 12, Brooks was diagnosed with germinoma, a cancer of the brain. He went through rigorous treatment at the University of Michigan, having to travel across the state to Ann Arbor every few weeks with his mom, Tami, for exhaustive rounds of chemotherapy.
The chemo worked, successfully shrinking the tumor.
As part of his journey, Brooks had the opportunity to request a trip through Make-A-Wish. He and his family were all set for a week-long visit to Turks and Caicos, a series of islands southeast of the Bahamas, near the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba.
“We had the trip scheduled for this exact week last year, but then a hurricane came through the islands and tore them apart,” said Brooks’ dad, John Kingma. “When that happened, we had to send the plane tickets back. We tried to plan different trips, but it’s hard to work out a time with the family.
“Through it all, (Brooks) kept asking, ‘Can I get a boat?’ I said, ‘I doubt it. But you know what? I’ll ask,’ and they said, ‘Yup, we’ll try.’”
John knew that the boat was coming soon, but he never let on when Brooks would question him about it.
“This was a big-time surprise,” Brooks said as he sat in the boat, his hands grasping the steering wheel. “Literally, just last night I asked my dad, ‘Have you heard anything from Make-A-Wish? An email or anything?’ And he said, ‘No, not yet.’”
Brooks said he’s always loved boating. The family owned a boat, but had to sell it when Brooks got sick.
“I just love being on the water,” he said. “I’ve always wanted my own boat, and now I’ve got it.”
Brooks said the new boat more than makes up for last year’s disappointment of missing out on the trip.
“I was thinking about it, and a trip is only a week,” he said. “This will last for years.”
Several representatives from Make-A-Wish attended Thursday’s surprise unveiling of the boat, including Ashley Sanregret, who said that Brooks’ reaction to the boat was priceless — one of the most moving Make-A-Wish surprises she’s ever witnessed.
“All of our wishes are really unique, and we never know what the next wish is going to be,” she said. “This is really cool because it’s a wish that will keep on giving — to be able to be out with his family on his boat.”
Sanregret noted that it takes overwhelming community support to make such wishes come true.
“We can’t grant wishes without the community support,” she said. “All the money we raise here stays right here in Michigan.”
The boat was also made possible through the generosity of the Carolina Skiff boat company; Suzuki, which supplied the motor; and Yacht Club trailers.
“We are proud and thrilled to be able to participate in something like this,” said Ray Smith of Carolina Skiff as Brooks sat beaming in his new boat. “To see the smile on your face, it’s priceless.”
Brooks now faces the prospect of a long, cold winter of dreaming about launching his boat for the first time.
“I’ll hang out in it, sit in it, get the feel for it,” he said. “And come this summer, I won’t be home much.”