Ninja Turtle playground was a great wish!

Four-year-old Derek Wilson knew just what he wanted for his Make-A- Wish request: a Ninja Turtle lair. Make-A-Wish Maine is dedicated to granting wishes for children with serious, life-threatening illnesses. Derek was diagnosed with leukemia in 2014 and has been in treatment ever since.

Make-A-Wish’s Senior Program Director Kate Vickery knew just who to turn to for help with Derek’s dream: the Maine Sustainable Forestry Initiative, led by my friend Pat Sirois. Lots of folks stepped up enthusiastically to build the Ninja Turtle lair in Pat’s garage.

When it was done, Derek’s parents took Derek to his grandfather’s home to give Pat and his crew time to deliver and set up the lair. It included a two-floor block, custom-made doors with Derek’s name that allow kids to enter at the bottom and enter a tunnel to the left or climb a ladder to open the top floor – a spiraling slide that takes them back to the ground. Swings are to the right, and a child-sized Ninja Turtle stands at the top of the structure. Magnificent!

Watch this video to see Derek’s enthusiastic response when he was brought blindfolded into the yard, the blindfold came off, and he sprinted to the lair. Priceless!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.