By Michele Dotson
This year’s grand marshal is six and a half years old.
He wants, above all things, to be a fireman.
And he wants to meet a princess.
The Town of Mint Hill and The Make A Wish Foundation have found a way to make that happen.
On Saturday, May 24, Tim Brakman (who answers equally to Timmy) will ride on a fire truck, dressed in his fireman’s uniform, accompanied by his three year old sister, Kate, who, in honor of the occasion, has been named Miss Mint Hill Madness.
Before the parade, Tim will attend a reception in his honor at the Mint Hill Fire Department where he’ll meet the Mint Hill Beauty Queens and Ms. Mecklenburg, and tour the fire station.
Sister Kate will be decked out in her princess finery, which she has already taken quite a shine to.
“We got Kate’s dress the other day, and I wanted her to try it on,” says Brakman. “She wore it all afternoon and thought it was the best thing.”
Both Tim and Kate are excited by this new adventure.
Both children were adopted from China just over a year ago, and neither of them has ever even been to a parade.
Cindy and Bryce Brakman are the proud parents of Tim and Kate, and three biological children of their own; Beau (17), Megan (15), and Lesley (13).
“This was something within me that I knew I just had to do,” says Brakman. “As soon as I saw his face, I knew he was our boy,” says Tim’s mother Cindy.
Tim has a congenital heart defect, known as TGA (transposition of the great arteries), DORV (double outlet right ventricle).
This condition is the result of something going wrong during the formation of the heart in the womb. The condition requires open heart surgery; in Tim’s case, two.
“China only paid for the first surgery,” says Brakman. “And that’s where they were going to stop.”
Tim’s situation was unusual in that he had been left at the orphanage at seven months of age.
“It seems as though the parents were hoping to fix him,” says Brakman.
The Brakmans also adopted daughter Kate from the same orphanage at the same time. The two are not biological siblings.
Kate has a chronic illness called thalasemia. People with thalassemia make less hemoglobin and have fewer circulating red blood cells than normal, and consequently suffer from moderate to severe bouts of anemia.
Luckily, after DNA testing, the Brakmans learned Kate’s form of thalassemia is not the worst. In its worst form, Kate would have had to undergo a blood transfusion every 23 days.
“What would put the normal person out of commission is normal for Kate,” says Brakman. “Her body is just used to it.”
“We didn’t set out to adopt special needs children,” says Brakman. “When we got Kate, she was just over two and she was the size of a 10 month old, and she wasn’t walking yet, but I knew that was our daughter.”
Both children came into their new home knowing little of any language, including their own Cantonese, but have made quick and steady progress.
“It’s amazing to see how fast they learn.” says Brakman. “Tim goes to Lake Norman Elementary School and he just loves it. He used to cry when there was no school, or on weekends.”
You can see Tim Brakman and his sister Kate along with their family at The Mint Hill Madness Parade Saturday, May 24 at 10:00 am. The parade will run from Food Lion on Highway 51 to behind Tutor Time in Brighton Park.