EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — A woman battling cancer from East Millinocket made one wish for the holidays: to bring Christmas back to the Katahdin region.
Rebecca VanWormer was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, and when it came back, it spread aggressively.
"They told me in October at the cancer center that there was nothing else that they could offer,” VanWormer said.
She now has to use a wheelchair. "This is my worst case scenario," she said.
After seeing that towns in the Millinocket area were not keeping up with the usual holiday traditions, and fearing that this would be her last Christmas, she decided she would bring the spirit back to the community.
"In 2015, they had nothing. The big tree downtown wasn't lit. There was nothing,” VanWormer said.
She believes the lack of spirit was a result of economic hardship and mill closure after mill closure.
"I wanted something bigger than that, especially if it was going to be my last Christmas,” she said.
It prompted her to reach out to Susan D’Alessandro, a community member who had spearheaded some holiday events in downtown Millinocket.
"She and I started talking, we got a group of people together and that group grew and grew and grew," VanWormer said.
Dozens of people from Millinocket, East Millinocket and Medway turned out to decorate vacant store fronts, organize tree lighting ceremonies and hold performances downtown.
"It was amazing, absolutely amazing,” VanWormer said.
D’Allesandro said that “Becky’s wish” has, in turn, become a “gift” to the community.
"I consider Becky to be an angel that dropped from the sky and energized all of us,” she said. "What she has given to the three towns is immeasurable."
The Katahdin Region Holiday Committee now has over 200 members of Facebook. The group even outgrew their usual meeting place.