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The Littlest Garbageman in Idaho

Leo

“ Leo has loved the garbage truck forever, and even in the hospital, it was something he could do. Even if he felt pretty crummy, he could play garbage truck. ”


- Shannon, Leo's mom

Three-year-old Leo likes to have early morning picnics on his lawn while he waits for the garbageman, Curtis, (yes, they are on a first-name basis) to come to his house and haul the garbage away.

Leo has always been fascinated by garbage trucks and recycling. At three, he already knows which items can be recycled and which items can’t. He sorts the household garbage and takes it to the street every week. He knows how garbage trucks are routed. He’s knowledgeable of the different categories of garbage trucks and how each type of garbage truck lifts and dumps its garbage. He loves everything about waste disposal.

When Leo was two years old, he began having dizzy spells, and his parents started to worry. Their worst fears came true when Leo was diagnosed with cancer. Leo went through five rounds of chemotherapy and three transplant rounds, and after his treatment, Leo’s MRI came back clean, and it’s been clean for the last three months. Still, the next year will be crucial for Leo’s recovery. If the cancer doesn’t return, he’ll probably go on to live a healthy, normal life, and he seems strong and hardy now. But it was during the darkest time of fear, isolation and despair that Leo and his family were put in contact with Make-A-Wish® Idaho.

Leo's wish was granted.

Unlike some, his wish came easy. He wished to be a garbage man for a day. It’s a wish that had never been granted in Idaho before. Regional Director of Make-A-Wish Idaho, Julie Thomas, reached out to Republic Services, one of the largest waste disposal and recycling companies in the United States and asked if they could make this boy’s wish come true. Republic Services was excited to help.

Republic Services knew they needed to find a very special driver to teach Leo the time-honored traditions of the garbageman, so they asked Garry Packwood, a grandfather known for being good with children and a driver of 25 years, to be Leo’s mentor.

When the City of Boise heard that a very special three-year-old would be a garbageman for the day, they asked for his help. They wanted him to service city hall. The director of public works, the city environmental managers and the mayor cheered Leo on while he emptied the Dumpsters behind city hall. In a one-on-one conversation, Leo even impressed the mayor with his extensive knowledge of waste disposal!

Now that the garbage was collected, it was time to head out to the Ada County Landfill to dispose of it. Garry showed Leo how to dump the garbage from the truck, and Leo’s face lit up behind his little, blue mask. The men and women who worked at the landfill were weighed down with bags full of toys: scale-model trucks, Caterpillars, bulldozers. They set them at Leo’s feet, thanking the small boy for helping with such a big job. Leo then assisted in the operation an excavator and the largest dump truck he had ever seen.

Asked what his favorite part of the wish was, Leo simply said “The dumping.”

After the landfill, Leo traveled to Garden City. At the city hall there, Leo was gifted with a book from the Garden City Library and was made an honorary police officer by the Garden City Police Department. Leo diligently emptied the building’s Dumpsters.

His fellow police officers escorted Leo to his next destination, a residential street where the citizens cheered on Leo as he operated the truck’s side loader to hoist their garbage into the bin, just like Curtis and Garry. When Leo imagined being a garbage man, he always imagined kids like himself cheering as he hauled their garbage away. Now, folks of all ages were standing in their yards and driveways, cheering for Leo as he collected their recycling.

Leo then took their bottles, cans and paper products to Western Recycling where garbage came to be sorted and born anew. All the employees there waved and cheered as Leo dumped out the truck. The facility manager gave Leo and his family a brief tour.

By this time of the day, little Leo was getting tired, and although there was more fun lined up, Leo was ready to take a nap, but there was one more surprise that he needed to stay awake for. The garbage truck roared across the city as it made its way to its destination—IHOP where take-out waffles awaited the dedicated and weary garbageman-in-training at the end of his first day on the job.

The employees from the Albertson’s came outside to hold signs and cheer as Leo pulled into the IHOP parking lot. The IHOP staff held signs, too, and gave Leo more presents and, of course, they had his take-home waffles piping hot and ready for him. So the next time he ate his breakfast picnic while waiting for Curtis, he would remember the day that he was a garbage man!


Thank You to Front Runner Films for donating this video.

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Make-A-Wish® Idaho
310 W. Idaho Street
Boise, ID 83702
(208) 345-9474