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Carter cleans up
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Carter Gomes performs his first duties of Carter Cleans Up with the assistance of Eric Blaine of Turlock Scavenger by removing trash from his Osborn school site (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

Seven-year-old Carter Gomes started out Monday morning just wanting to collect Turlock’s garbage.

Five hours later, he had collected so much more.

Carter, who was diagnosed with leukemia just before his third birthday, was granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. His wish was to be a garbageman for a day.

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Osborn 2nd grader Carter Gomes breaks through his celebratory banner as his school cheers him on. After waiting a few years due to the pandemic, Carter's Make-A-Wish to be a garbage man is finally fulfilled (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

“This is my first day on the job and what a day it has been,” said Karen Alvord, the new president and CEO of the Northeastern/Central California and Northern Nevada Make-A-Wish chapter. “Jumping straight on into the mission and seeing the beauty of what Make-A-Wish is all about … it’s been an amazing day out here with Carter, his family and the whole community coming together.”

Long fascinated with garbage trucks and garbagemen, Carter was allowed to ride in a Turlock Scavenger truck with his cousin, Eric Blaine, a Turlock Scavenger employee, and collect garbage at various stops around the city.

“I have to say that it is always wonderful to see every little kid come out and wave to us every single morning,” said Jesse Marchant of Turlock Scavenger. “To be able to fulfill one’s wish is absolutely amazing. Being able to grant this wish is something I’ll never forget.”

Carter’s morning started out with a rally at Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy, where his classmates gave him a rousing sendoff. 

“To be able to see that smile of his and other kids rallying him up makes all of this so far beyond worth it,” said City Wide Property Services president and CEO Albert Rodriguez, who underwrote the day’s festivities. “It just makes me want to multiply these wishes as we move along. It’s an amazing feeling.”

A police escort then led the way to the Emanuel Cancer Center, where Carter emptied the Dumpsters and then got to ring the chemo bell, a milestone for all cancer patients when their chemotherapy sessions are concluded.

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Two years after completing chemotherapy for leukemia, Osborn 2nd grader Carter Gomes finally gets to ring the bell at Emanuel Cancer Center on Monday morning as family, staff and community members cheer him on (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

“The team here is just so focused on making sure they take care of the entire family because it really takes that family to heal from something like cancer,” said Dr. Murali Naidu, CEO of Emanuel Medical Center. “And so that’s why events like this are special, because it’s about what everybody needs and, certainly, the individual who has cancer having the opportunity to celebrate with that support network is just as important.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Carter was unable to ring that bell when he completed his chemo treatments nearly two years ago.

After a garbage stop at the Turlock Chamber of Commerce, Carter and his entourage, which included parents Walt and Elsa Gomes, were treated to lunch at Main Street Footers.

“We are so excited that they asked us to be involved,” said Lisa Wilson, owner of Main Street Footers. “It’s amazing.”

After lunch, it was off to Turlock Scavenger on Walnut Road to dump the day’s collections.

The official portion of his day concluded at City Hall, where Mayor Amy Bublak awarded Carter with a city proclamation and asked him to be the Grand Marshal for the city’s annual Christmas Parade.

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Carter Gomes is informed by Turlock Mayor Amy Bublak that the City of Turlock would like for him to be the Grand Marshal of the Downtown Turlock Christmas Parade this year (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

“It was a great experience,” said Bublak. “It just makes you focus on what’s really important. Elections come and go, but it’s about our community and us standing together and working for a better, stronger Turlock.”

Carter’s day concluded with a less-public garbage collection in his neighborhood, solely for friends, family and neighbors.

Other highlights of Carter’s day included being made an official member of the Turlock Scavenger team, getting a firefighter’s hat from the Turlock Fire Department, being made a junior member of the Turlock Police Department’s SWAT team and an honorary badge from Capt. Steve Rodrigues of the Turlock PD.

“It was just awesome to have a community come together and show so much support,” said Walt Gomes, Carter’s father. “It’s overwhelming for myself and Elsa. It’s just really awesome. Truly awesome.”

Even the weather cooperated for Carter’s special day.

“The weather was really making me worry,” said Turlock Scavenger owner Alan Marchant, who worked behind the scenes for two years to make sure this wish was fulfilled. “All day (Sunday) that’s all I was doing — going to the Weather Channel and checking the weather.”

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Carter Gomes celebrates with his family during Carter Cleans Up Make-A-Wish event on Monday (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

As for Carter, he didn’t have much to say after the day’s events. He did confirm with timely nods that he had a good time and that he enjoyed all the gifts and surprises and support. 

He pretty much cleaned up.

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