“He’s so young, I didn’t think that would be the mayor,” Crystal Roberts said softly as she and her family entered the office of Mayor Gary Soiseth on Friday morning.
But the mayor of Turlock was about to get a lot younger as Soiseth, 31, handed his job over for the day to 7-year-old Koran Rudd Silvas.
The honorary position was part of a day full of surprises for Koran (pronounced koh-rawn), who’s been in remission since June after battling leukemia diagnosed in September 2014.
Through Make-A-Wish and the city, Koran and the temporarily former mayor shared such pleasures as riding in a white limo, touring City Hall, dining in a train caboose (Koran is a huge train fan), visiting the San Joaquin Toy Train Operators workshop in Modesto and touring Turlock Fire Station 1, where Koran actually put out a fire and hitched a firetruck ride back home.
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All that happened to that point was icing on the cake as Koran was treated to his final surprise – a redo of his bedroom to give it a train theme. He was ushered inside to find all new furnishings, decor, paint and carpeting.
The walls were adorned with big Lionel train murals. There were new bunk beds, and on the lower one sat a teddy bear dressed as an engineer. Contractor Andrew Rosenbaum installed wood paneling on one wall, and he and Make-A-Wish “fairies” worked 15 or 16 hours over Thursday and Friday to create the themed room. Make-A-Wish contributed all the furnishings, except for some authentic train items provided by Amtrak.
Second-grader Koran’s adventure began when he was picked up by his parents and little sister, 2-year-old Amaya, at Cunningham Elementary in a limousine.
First stop for the family was City Hall, where Koran met Soiseth, who gave him a gift bag including such mayoral items as gavel-shaped pencils. The child had his photo taken for a special lanyard and tag that declared him mayor for the day.
With that, Soiseth led the new mayor on a tour of the building, to meet his staff and talk “mayor stuff” in the City Council chambers. There, they agreed that Turlock definitely needs more trains and firetrucks.
Koran’s mayorship may be over, but he’ll return to the limelight for the city’s Christmas parade, when he and Mayor Gary Soiseth will ride on a lighted tractor together.
One stop was the Toy Train Operators building on 10th Street in Modesto, where group members let Koran run the trains and gave him a cap, wooden train whistle, passes to their December show at the Stanislaus County Fairground, homemade train-shaped cookies and more.
We always say a wish changes the child and the family, but it also can change the community.
of Make-A-Wish for Northeastern California and Northern Nevada
Throughout the late-morning and all-afternoon adventure, little sister Amaya was nearly inseparable from her brother. Serving as his vice mayor, she would take his hand to guide him into the limo. She sat next to him at the mayor’s desk and in the council chamber. She was right at his side at 10 East.
She adores her big brother, Roberts said. “When he was sick, she’d stand by his bed, rubbing his head,” she said, showing how Amaya would gently stroke Koran.
During his tour of Fire Station 1, Koran got another surprise: The crew members told him they had a call and he’d need to join them. They helped him get into a jacket, pants and helmet just his size and had him climb into a firetruck. While they went around the block, a fire was lighted in a trash barrel, which he got to extinguish with a fire hose.
He even got to keep the clothing. “Next time you come help us out, you have some turnouts,” Capt. Casey Cockrell told Koran.
Asked how a wish for a train-themed room evolved into Koran’s full day of fun, Jennifer Stolo, CEO of Make-A-Wish for Northeastern California and Northern Nevada, said: “We like to add a lot of magic to our wishes. … We wanted a way to get him out of the house for some time,” and the mayor and city staff were fully “on board” with helping celebrate the child’s strength and bravery.
Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327