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'Make-A-Wish': New York teen wanted to ride a vintage snowmobile -- Park Rapids resident helped make it come true

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outdoors Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

The nation's icebox - International Falls - warmed to a successful Make-A-Wish event last weekend.

At the get together, Justin Clack from Park Rapids helped Forrest Hess, a 17-year-old from New York, make his wish to ride a vintage snowmobile come true.

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Clack, who collects and restores vintage sleds from the 1960s and '70s, said Dr. Jim Saurdiff of International Falls contacted him about helping. Forrest's wish list of machines to ride included a Yamaha SRX racer.

"One of my machines is a 1976 Yamaha SRX, so I said I would be happy to bring it and a few others up to the Make-A-Wish event for him to ride," Clack said.

Forrest is battling the effects of Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States. A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infection. The disease also can affect the digestive system.

The Western New York and Minnesota chapters of Make-A-Wish, along with Vintagesleds.com and the Vintage Snowmobile Club of America, worked together to make Forrest's wish come true.

The Make-A-Wish chapters had Forrest and his family picked up in a limousine and taken to the airport in New York. They were flown from there to International Falls where they were picked up and brought to Rainy Lake for the event.

Clack traveled north with four vintage snowmobiles and participated in a trail ride and fundraising efforts for Make-A-Wish.

"We were all shocked that the one wish Forrest could make was to come and ride sleds with us old-timers," Clack said.

The sled enthusiasts learned Forrest is an avid collector of mechanical items, including outboard motors and vintage snowmobiles. He owns four old sleds, including a 1973 Polaris TX he won in an essay contest, sponsored by Vintagesleds.com. He plans on restoring the machine this summer, Clack said.

When the final tally comes in, Clack said, the event will have raised thousands of dollars for the Make-A-Wish organization. One highlight was the live auction of a vintage Massey Ski Whiz snowmobile. The high bid came in at $1,400, which was donated to the Make-A-Wish chapters. The sled was given to Forrest to keep.

"Vintage sled enthusiasts are just a great group of people and friends," Clack said. "Some traveled from New York, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan to attend this Make-A-Wish event.

"Over 150 vintage snowmobiles were present and nearly 300 people showed up to support Forrest in his wish and his battle against CF," he added. "I was thrilled at the chance to help out."

luannh@parkrapidsenterprise.com

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