By Leslie H. Dixon
WEST PARIS — “Thanks for the ride,” Nicky Basso called out from under his red, plastic fireman’s hat as he climbed down from the big fire truck smiling ear to ear.
It was no small feat for the Agnes Gray Elementary School kindergarten student who for most of his short five years was frightened when he heard the loud blast of a firetruck siren.
But not this day.
This day Nicky was picked up as school closed school by West Paris Fire Chief Jason Sciortinio in a big red fire truck for a ride home thanks to the generosity of a 7th grade Oxford Hills Middle School student he met in a summer program.
Kobe Dodge knew Nicky was afraid of fire trucks and wanted to help him overcome his fear.
Dodge borrowed some money from his dad and purchased six raffle tickets at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School Class of 2018 Chinese Auction that supports graduation events and class trips. He won a trip on a West Paris fire truck.
It was the prize he was after – not for himself – but for Nicky, the young boy he mentored in the Explorers Club where Kobe was his swim instructor last summer.
“I knew he would enjoy it the most,” Kobe said. He asked Nicky’s mom Kristy Basso for permission to give the ticket to Nicky, but Basso said she wasn’t sure her son would want to go.
“I could not believe that any child would be thoughtful enough to actually try to win a raffle prize (the fire truck ride) with another child in mind to give the prize to,” Basso said. “Kobe told me he never intended it for himself.”
“It warmed my heart to see such thoughtfulness,” said Basso.
Nicky was only 18 months old when fire broke out just before 11 a.m. on Nov. 6, 2011 in his West Paris home. Basso said her husband, Josh Basso, was home with three of their four sons, Matthew, then 13, Jacob, then 10, and Nicky.
Their then-15-year-old son, Jon, a football player and student at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, was on his way home from visiting his grandmother in New Hampshire. Her daughter Tori was in the U.S. Army stationed in Texas.
Although the family escaped unharmed, they lost everything in the fire.
Three weeks later, the family moved into a temporary home in Hebron that was loaned to the family by Paris Fire Department Deputy Chief Jon Longley who lost a home in a fire more than 20 years ago and understood the family’s plight.
About 100 people donated their services to help restore the house, which needed new floors, interior walls and insulation, among other items. The house quickly began to fill up with donations, including a large donation from a family in Mexico whose home had also burned to the ground in 2011 and who also had received contributions from the public after their loss.
It took two years for the Bassos to rebuild their home on the same 90-acre West Paris site.
Basso said it is likely Nicky only remembers the fire because of what he hears other people saying about the fire, but the fear has stuck with him.
“This past Halloween, we visited the firehouse to trick or treat and he was afraid to stand next to the running fire truck,” she said.
“Losing everything you own in a fire is devastating. I had my four sons all living with me at the time, mostly teenagers, and our whole family still talks about it often,” Basso this week.
Basso said she and her husband worried that Nick might be afraid to get on the fire truck for the ride home.
“We prepped him for over a week reminding him that Kobe had gotten and given him the special gift,” Basso said.
Basso said that as part of the preparation, they took Nicky to the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce Christmas parade to show him one of the West Paris fire trucks that he would be in riding on.
“He said he would be brave and take the ride,” Basso said.
Basso said Nicky was “thrilled” that Kobe gave him the special gift. On the day of the ride Nicky put on his “fire truck” shirt and socks and the plastic fireman’s hat he had received at Halloween.
Nicky was warned that the siren would be loud if the fireman sounded it, but Basso said her son said he would simply cover his ears but the fire fighter knowing of Nicky’s apprehension did not sound the siren.
Basso said that Nick talked happily all week about the ride saying the fireman told him “It’s not an emergency so he didn’t turn the sirens so he wouldn’t scare people.”
“When the truck was stopped and Nick was home, he thanked the driver, Jason, and smiled ear to ear,” said Basso. “He waved goodbye, and the fireman honked the horn.”
Imitating the fire truck like the “Mighty Machine” television show (where vehicles all have voices,) Basso said her son said, “He’s saying ‘Goodbye, Nicky! Thanks for the ride!'”