GRAY — Just after his 25th birthday, Michael Kelley will celebrate in style with some of his favorite reality TV stars from “Down East Dickering” at a benefit that will help give him freedom and mobility he’s never before experienced.
At least 10 cast members from the now-canceled History Channel show — which focused on Mainers wheeling and dealing by consulting “Uncle Henry’s Swap It or Sell It Guide” — have teamed up with Tailgate Bar & Grill in Gray, people at Bring Back “Down East Dickering” and local sponsors to host Cruise for Mike’s Ride. It will be held at 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 19. The goal is to raise enough money to purchase Kelley an Action Track Chair, which is a suped-up wheel chair that can traverse almost any terrain.
Kelley, who’s a resident of Waldo, hits the quarter century mark today, Thursday, July 16. His mother, Carol Kelley, explained late last week that her son has a rare genetic disorder called Triplication of Chromosome 17. So rare, in fact, that he’s the only known person to have it, she said.
“He’s never been able to walk. (He sometimes has trouble talking but) his brain is intact fully,” Carol said, laughing. “When he was diagnosed at the age of 18, he was the first human case. He is actually a case study.”
He spent the first 12 to 15 years of his life in-and-out of the hospital and trapped in body casts. With Michael’s disorder comes a myriad of ailments, including scoliosis, hip issues, pain, acid reflux and he’s legally blind. When he was operated on for his scoliosis at 12, he grew six inches within a matter of days, but it caused issues with his hips, with the bones trying to grow over sockets. He’s since had two surgeries to fix that.
“We have no model to go by. We’re kind of flying by the seat of our pants,” Carol said. “My goal is to keep him healthy and happy.”
And his friendship with some of the crew from “Down East Dickering” definitely keeps Michael happy. After watching the show when it was airing, Michael instantly loved it because he, like his grandfather, is a dickerer at heart, Carol said.
Michael first met star Tony Bennett of Bethel and others on the show at a meet-and-greet in Bangor last June.
“Michael has had this incredible ability to make friends with adults. People his own age don’t get him,” Carol said. “They’re both from the old times, him and Tony.”
Michael has also taken a liking to Duke, Bennett’s Jack russell terrier, who Bennett calls the star of the show.
“’Load up Meathead!’ That’s Michael’s favorite line,” Carol said, quoting Bennett. “Michael buys Duke treats and gives Duke treats.”
Bennett called Michael an amazing kid who’s stuck in a body that doesn’t work properly.
“He ended up being a fan of the show and everywhere I’d be, he’d show up,” Bennett said, noting another Dickering member, Roland “Yummy” Raubeson of Minot, has become friends with Michael as well. “I fell in love with the kid. We hang out all the time now.”
It was in February that Bennett called up Carol, telling her about the Action Track Chair — which sports large treads seen on snowmobiles — he found at Chappell Tractor in Nashua, N.H. In April, the Kelley family visited the Granite State for soccer events and Michael took it for a spin.
“He even let Michael drive that chair over the embankment, thank you very much,” Carol said about an employee at the tractor company. “He sat in that chair and off he went. He’s all boy. He wants to do that stuff.”
The company would normally charge upwards of $18,000 for the package set up for Michael, Bennett said. It includes the chair itself, a five-point harness, a control on both the front and back of the chair and the trailer to haul it. Now the crew from “Down East Dickering” and the Kelleys are looking to raise $11,400 to pay for it.
“It’s going to be a blessing for his mother. She’s his full-time caretaker,” Bennett said. “This is going to be a game changer, a life changer for him. He can go to the garden, go to the beach, go wherever.”
The friendship between Michael and Bennett has blossomed so that Bennett calls Carol when he’s headed to their neck of the woods to meet up. He got Michael on Uncle Henry’s Talkin’ Deals radio show and even included him on a second season “Down East Dickering” episode, which was shot last August.
“Even though it was 20 minutes that made Mike’s day,” Carol said.
Since Michael has never been to birthday parties nor has he had them, Carol put out a request for people to send him cards. It’s not too late even if today’s his birthday. They can be sent to: Michael D. Kelley, 100 Waterville Road, Waldo, ME 04915.
Cruise For Mike’s Ride schedule
GRAY — The Cruise for Mike’s Ride will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday, July 19, at Tailgate Bar & Grill at 61 Portland Road in Gray.
The benefit bike show — judged by the cast of the History Channel’s “Down East Dickering” — is for 25-year-old Waldo resident Michael Kelley, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder called Triplication of Chromosome 17. Funds raised at the event will be used to purchase an Action Track Chair to give him mobility he’s never been able to experience in a regular wheelchair.
Registration for the bike show and ride begins at 11 a.m. and runs until 1:45 p.m., with a fee of $10. All of the fees collected will directly benefit Kelley. The bike show will go until 3 or 4 p.m., organizers said. There’s four classes of bikes, American, European, Japanese and British. The categories include paint, original, custom, restored, rat rod, the loudest, Barbie biker and people’s choice. Prizes will be awarded to the winners.
No bike? No problem. All are welcome to attend the benefit, which will also include music from Mike and Mojo and Blues Jam, with the latter after the bike show.
For those who can’t attend The Cruise for Mike’s Ride, but still want to donate, a GoFundMe account has been set up. Visit www.gofundme.com/v3jfx3b to donate. Donations can also be dropped off at any Bangor Savings Bank branch, just tell the teller it’s for Michael Kelley’s Benefit.
For more information about The Cruise for Mike’s Ride, search for “Michael Kelley’s Benefit” on Facebook, call 657-7973 or visit www.tailgatebarandgrill.biz.