In this undated photo provided by family friends, Kyle, Patrick and Matthew Wilkins were all smiles during a charity event. The three boys, sons of Pelham School District employee Ray Wilkins, would have celebrated their 22nd birthday this month. Members of the Pelham Good Neighbor Fund are working to honor their memory. (COURTESY)
Wilkins triplets still have a place in Pelham's heart
PELHAM - A group of caring Pelham residents is working to keep the memory of Kyle, Patrick and Matthew Wilkins alive.
Diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of five, the triplets were raised in nearby Chelmsford, Mass., though their father, Ray, has worked in the maintenance department in the Pelham school system for more than three decades.
Ray and his wife, Lisa, lost their third son to the disease earlier this year.
In November 2006, Matthew lost his battle with the disease at the age of 15. Patrick, a student at Southern New Hampshire University, died in March 2012. Kyle, a student at UMass-Lowell, died in January.
All three young men served as ambassadors for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Members of the Pelham Good Neighbor Fund are hoping to honor the three boys, who would have turned 22 this month. Plans are in the works to place a memorial granite bench, surrounded by three trees, on the grounds of Pelham Memorial School.
With the project estimated to cost several thousand dollars, the Good Neighbors are hoping residents will consider helping the cause.
Project organizer Natasha Goyette, who contacted Good Neighbor Fund Chairman Frank Sullivan earlier this year, said she's known Ray Wilkins for many years.
Sullivan said the Good Neighbors were happy to lend a helping hand, and fundraising efforts will continue for another month or so.
A Pelham native, Goyette said she was saddened by plight of the Wilkins family and knew right away she wanted to do something to help.
Just last week, Ray Wilkins' mother passed away.
"This family is such a huge part of the community," Goyette said. "So a lot of people have already stepped up to help."
While the memorial's installation had initially been slated for spring, Goyette said that date would likely pushed forward until the fall season due to the late snowfall and activities already planned at Memorial School.
Principal Stephen Secor said the Wilkins family has long been a beloved part of the district family, and he's hoping the memorial can ultimately be worked into the landscape of an outdoor classroom being planned on the grounds of his school.
"Right now we're in the preliminary stages of both projects," Secor said, noting that many of the school's longtime staff members have fond memories of the three boys, who've all been described as having "amazingly positive attitudes and a general zest for life."
"We know how dedicated Mr. and Mrs. Wilkins have been to their family, which makes it all the more important for us to honor them in any way we can," Secor said. "We're a close-knit family here."
Once the memorial is installed, any funds left over will be given to the Wilkins family, Goyette said.
While Goyette never had the chance to meet Kyle, Patrick or Matthew, she said she's known their father for quite a few years.
"He's such a strong person," she said. "Even after all his family has been through, the first thing he'll ask is, 'How are you?'"
Though the triplets never attended Pelham schools, Goyette said the location for the new memorial is particularly poignant since the community has been a huge supporter of the Wilkins family over the years.
"Ray will get to go to work every day and he'll have a place to go and remember his sons," Goyette said. "He'll see that memorial, and he'll know just how many people care."
Those wishing to donate toward the Wilkins memorial may do so online at www.pelhamgoodneighborfund.org or send checks, made out to the Wilkins Memorial Fund, to Pelham Good Neighbor Fund, P.O. Box 953, Pelham NH 03076.