Mikayla Oliver and her family wanted to do something to thank the Shriners Hospital in Springfield, Mass. They felt compelled to do something.

“I can never repay them,” Larry Oliver, Mikayla’s father, said. “What better way to show our appreciation than by helping somebody else, too.”

On Friday, Mikayla and her parents, Larry and Renee Oliver, presented recent Lawrence High School graduate Kyle McLain with $400. On July 19, McLain will play in the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl. The Oliver family’s donation will go toward the Shriners hospitals for children.

Strong legs run so that weak legs may walk. That’s the motto of the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl. Mikayla, now an 11-year old who will be in sixth grade at Carrabec Community School in North Anson in the fall, knows that motto better than most. She’s lived it.

When Mikayla was 14 months old, she just stopped walking. The day before her first birthday, she started puttering around the family home on unsteady toddler legs, but a couple months later, she just stopped. Mikayla was in pain and nobody could figure out why.

“Every time I set her down, she started crying,” Larry Oliver said. “So I held her all the time.”

When Mikayla was 19 months old, her parents took her to the Shriners Hospital in Springfield, Mass., where they were able to pinpoint the cause of her pain, and treat it.

Mikayla has Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. She’s had 10 surgeries to remove fluid from her joints or steroid injections. It’s a six-hour drive from the Olivers’ home in North Anson to the Springfield hospital, but early on it was apparent that every mile, every gallon of gas and every stop at a toll booth was worth it.

“After that first week, she was walking out of the building,” Larry Oliver said.

“They made sure I felt like I was the only person they were treating,” Mikayla said.

Recently, Mikayla started seeing a Portland-based doctor, but she wanted to thank Shriners. Her health is good now, and Mikayla is an A student. The Olivers heard about the Lobster Bowl and through mutual friends learned McLain will play in the game. Mikayla decided to make her donation through him.

On March 31, McLain learned about the Shriners hospitals at his team informational meeting in Lewiston. He watched as Dan Caro, who was severely burned in an accident at age 2, played drums and told the story of how Shriners hospitals helped him.

“At first, I thought it was just a game. It’s not just a football game. It’s amazing what they (the Shriners hospitals) can do,” McLain said.

Mikayla raised $400 through a bake sale and a walkathon. She walked 61 laps around the Embden Community Center in an hour. That’s approximately three miles. When McLain heard about this girl who wanted to give him a donation for the game, he was shocked.

“I was like, ‘wait, how old is she, and she’s raising this money?’ ” McLain said.

On Friday night, Mikayla and Kyle met. They sat at McLain’s kitchen table, where the Olivers made their donation. McLain reports to training camp at Hebron Academy on July 13.

“I’ll be thinking of you when I’m on the field,” McLain said to Mikayla.

The long practices in the July heat at Hebron Academy won’t be a thing compared to what Mikayla and the other Shriners hospitals patients go through. The Olivers hope to attend the game and cheer for McLain.

“It’s been a blessing to have the Shriners in our life,” Larry Oliver said.

Strong legs run so that weak legs may walk. It’s not just a motto. For families like the Olivers, it’s a fact.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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