PORT ORCHARD - Jedi Minters, 3, clutched his father's hand wandering through a maze of police cars, dump trucks and other outsized utility vehicles. There were big boats on trailers, a lineman's bucket truck and a giant red fire engine, its ladder reaching to the sky.
Jedi clambered up into a SWAT van, petted a police search dog and was hoisted into the driver's seat of a tricked out "monster truck," its wheels almost as tall as his mom and dad.
The truck extravaganza Wednesday in a parking lot across from Port Orchard City Hall was a little boy's dream come true, even sweeter given the months Jedi has spent in hospitals undergoing treatment for leukemia. Diagnosed in April 2017, Jedi has had chemotherapy, radiation and two bone marrow transplants. His prognosis is poor.
"We have gotten the news that the leukemia is still present after many treatments of chemo and radiation. Our care team has only given my son months to live," Jason Minters, Jedi's dad, recently wrote to city officials. "Our current plan is to spoil our son with the time we have."
Jason thought Jedi would love the chance to see a big truck up close.
"I wanted to just say maybe there’s a couple of trucks in a back utility alley that we could check out 'cause Jedi just loves vehicles," he said.
Utility Manager Thomas Hunter took the ball and ran with it. He started making calls. Yes, South Kitsap Fire and Rescue was on board with a ladder truck. Washington State Patrol, the Port Orchard Police Department and other law enforcement agencies stepped up.
Hunter has a 3-year-old boy among four young sons and was deeply touched by Jason Minters' email.
"I can't even imagine," Hunter said. "It really puts things into perspective about what's important, cherishing all those moments."
Word of the family's request spread fast. Safe Boats International offered one of its boats. Straight Up Racing, a monster truck group, pledged several vehicles, one of which looked like a "Paw Patrol" character.
Starbucks and The Soup Ladies, who bring food to first responders, offered free refreshments. The Port of Bremerton made its boat launch parking lot available for the growing number of trucks. Local businesses pitched in. There were T-shirts commemorating Jedi's Special Day and a fancy cake with a truck on top.
"The community just came out of the woodwork," said Hunter, who pulled together the truck-fest within six business days."There wasn't a single person that ever hesitated to help. I think that says a lot about the Port Orchard community."
The event was exclusively for Jedi and his family. The public was invited to view the trucks from behind yellow caution tape to avoid exposing Jedi to illness given his weakened immune system.
Jason and Lisa Minters gave much thought to finding a "distinctive" name for their son. Jedadiah seemed cool but a bit long. They came up with "Jedi."
"We were calling him that before he was conceived," Jason said. "He's an easy-going, carefree kid that thinks everyone is his friend."
A year-and-a-half ago, the Minters noticed Jedi had what appeared to be a rash. They ended up at Mary Bridge Hospital for tests.
"This sweet lady came in with some toys and gave us the news," Jason remembers. Jedi had acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of blood and bone marrow.
"Through everything he’s been through, he’s been happy and really amazing as kids often are," Jason said. "They get knocked down and don’t feel good that day; they just want to nap. When they do feel good, they’re up and about."
Jedi loves anyone in scrubs. He'd cry during uncomfortable procedures but he'd always say "thank you" to the nurses and other medical staff when they were done.
In the hospital, Jedi enjoyed playing video games about vehicles on an iPad.
"He's been able to escape while he was in the hospital playing those games," Jason said.
Around Halloween, Jedi was discharged home.
"He's had all the care taken to try to defeat his leukemia, but we just weren't able to do it," Jason said. "We're going to keep on trying to keep his life and everything going as long as we can and spoil him as much as possible."
The city's response to Jason's emailed request far exceeded the family's expectations.
"We thought it was going to be a small thing but it became a lot bigger," he said.
Mayor Rob Putaansuu made a proclamation while Jedi and his cousins had a snack.
"Today as we honor Jedi and all those who have been impacted by his illness, we’re here to support loved ones who know the pain cancer causes and to support the family, the friends, the neighbors during difficult times," Putaansuu said.
The mayor acknowledged those "on the front lines" of health care and research who work to improve lives impacted by life-threatening illness.
"But most importantly," Putaansuu concluded, "let’s recognize Jedi and his courageousness and unwavering strength each and every single day,"
Jason and Lisa Minters are grateful to the city and everyone else who took part in Jedi's Special Day.
"We understand that the community’s not just a single person," Jason said. "We’re just a small part of it and everyone’s really behind us. It’s amazing."