Joey Carlson waves

Joey Carlson waves from a Phillips 66 oil refinery fire truck as he prepares to go for a ride Thursday afternoon.

CASEY PAGE, Gazette Staff

Joey Carlson had a huge surprise waiting for him when he got out of school Thursday afternoon.

The 8-year-old Central Heights Elementary second-grader walked out the door with his classmates and his eyes widened when he saw a fire truck parked at the curb.

“You want to go for a ride?” said his dad, Steve Carlson, who was standing next to the Phillips 66 Oil Refinery 2016 Pierce Industrial fire pumper. “This is all for you.”

The treat was arranged for the boy who has dealt with longtime medical problems that have left him wearing a tracheal tube and required frequent trips to Children’s Hospital Colorado.

His mom, Jen Carlson, and grandmother, Kathy Carlson, both took photos as Joey walked up to the big rig, the other second-graders and their teachers looking on. Joey climbed into the rig, with a hand from Ben Adelman, fire chief for the Billings refinery.

Joey peered out the window, smiling, as he waved to the other students. The students called out to him and waved back.

Kathy Carlson smiled at the goings-on.

“I just want him to know he’s special,” she said.

After Joey’s parents and grandparents climbed in the back seat of the truck, Adelman took off for a half-hour drive around town.

“He’s such a trooper,” Jen Carlson said Thursday. “His outlook on everything is so positive.”

Joey is also a big fan of police officers and firefighters and the cars and trucks they drive, Steve Carlson said.

“Last Halloween we put together a sheriff’s uniform with a real belt, cuffs and radio for him to wear,” he said.

So when the Yellowstone Valley Black Sheep Harley-Davidsons for Christ held a fundraiser in December that included a silent auction with a fire truck ride, Steve Carlson made sure he had the winning bid.

As Adelman waited for the little boy to exit the school, the father of three children ages 11, 10 and 7 said, “I like doing this kind of stuff for kids.”

The fire department offers a ride to be auctioned off once or twice a year for charity, he said.

Central Heights principal Kyra Gaskill was glad to give the Carlsons permission to arrange the firetruck ride for after school.

“Joey has an amazing support system from his parents who are so awesome,” Gaskill said. “They’re always here, always checking on him. They’re wonderful people.”

Joey, she said, is “a happy-go-lucky kid who’s so sweet. Everybody loves him.”

Despite the medical issues he deals with, he never feels sorry for himself, she said, and he doesn’t expect special treatment.

“It’s awesome to see something special just for him,” Gaskill said before the event. “We’re just looking forward to sharing a small part of that joy with him.”

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General Assignment and Health Care Reporter

General assignment and healthcare reporter at The Billings Gazette.