Exactly five years ago, Dec. 18-19, a 2-year-old survived an overnight beating in a woodshed that nearly claimed his life and would throw him and his baby brother into a tumultuous future.
Strider Wolf’s torn intestines and injured spleen, pancreas and stomach have since healed, but his emotional scars endure as the outgoing second-grader with a yen for math copes with whatever’s next.
Andover, Massachusetts, lawyer Sara Wells and donors, including a good number of Andover families, have over the past year helped the young Maine brothers and their guardian grandparents, Lanette and Larry Grant, gain an economic footing after years mired in poverty and homelessness.
Wells stepped into the breach after a Boston daily newspaper’s article and Pulitzer Prize winning photo essay on the boys’ plight attracted so many offers to help from readers that the newspaper enlisted the lawyer to establish a trust for the children.
Donors have put clothes and coats on the boys’ backs, bought a $1,500 van for the grandparents and the boys, paid for their shelter — an $840 per month rental in Lisbon — and sent Strider to summer camps.
The charitable effort continues, and Wells hopes a resurgence of donations will help the Grants, who are in court trying to adopt the children, provide them a home of their own.
“We have a long way to go to adulthood,” Wells said. “I hope we get enough for a house because it would give them stability.”
The trust has a net account of more than $50,000 but will need substantially more to ensure the boys’ future care and find them a home, perhaps a fixer-upper or mobile home on its own land for about $100,000, Wells said.
In a recent plea to donors, Wells said the Grants had been home shopping and found a house they loved.
It was subsequently bought by another party, for $98,000, but would have been ideal had the Grants landed it, situated as it is on a dead-end street where children can play outside in safety.
Lanette Grant said Strider battles insecurity, fears that someone will break into their residence and attack him in the night.
The man who beat him on that 6-degree night in 2011, Justin Roy, is serving a 55-year sentence after being found guilty in 2013 in Carroll County Superior Court of 10 counts, including two for kidnapping, one for first-degree assault and four counts of second-degree assault, according to New Hampshire Supreme Court documents.
The boy’s biological mother, Heather Downs, who testified for the prosecution at Roy’s trial, later served eight months of a one-year sentence on her conviction for child endangerment and received a 12-month suspended sentence for witness tampering.
Downs took her child to the hospital the morning after the beating, upon noticing he was unresponsive.
The boy was transferred to Maine Medical Center where his blood pressure was measured to be so low that doctors stated he was dying; he had lost 50 percent of his blood volume because of internal bleeding, the court record states.
The tear in his intestines caused his bowels to spill into his abdomen, the court records state.
Strider underwent three surgeries to repair torn intestines and spent 23 days in the hospital. He was hooked up to a feeding tube for 11 months during his recovery.
The assault took place at Roy’s trailer, in Albany, New Hampshire, where the children and their mother were living, and Roy came to resent providing for them, the court record states.
Roy also was charged with assaulting a third child, Strider’s older brother, by a different father. That boy lives with his maternal grandparents.
These days, Strider and his little brother, Gallagher, are receiving services from the state of Maine. Strider sees a counselor at his house and receives 12 hours per week help from a behavioral health professional.
Strider is doing well in school. He’s a whiz in math, his grandmother said.
“He can manipulate numbers like you cannot believe,” she said.
He built a miniature helicopter out of an erector-set-like gift given to him by donors, and he and a helper put a motor in it, she said.
Gallagher, who will be 6 years old in January but whose mental level is that of about a 4-year-old, according to recent testing, receives 20 hours of services per week from a behavioral health professional and is in a day treatment program.
Lanette Grant said Gallagher is a handful and shows signs of a brain injury, perhaps from when he was a baby.
Lanette’s son, the boys’ biological father, who goes by the name Michael Grant (his legal name is Edward Michael Skidgel), visits his children but is not in a position to care for them.
Larry Grant, 64, and Lanette Grant, 52, did not plan on becoming parents at their advanced ages. Both of them have battled health problems and poverty, though Larry Grant now works as a driver for a medical company picking up blood samples.
The past five years have been difficult, though much easier in the past year thanks to help from the trust, Lanette Grant said.
After the beating, the children were placed with the Grants, and the family has bonded through good times and bad times.
The Grants, Gallagher and Strider lived in a trailer in Oxford from 2012 until April 2015.
They lost the mobile home in April of that year and moved into a 24-foot camper, living at campgrounds and Wal-Mart parking lots until August 2015, when they found the rental in Lisbon.
They have remained there thanks to the help of the trust, sustained by material help and knowledge that others care about them, Lanette Grant said.
“The trust and the donors and the people down there have lifted so much from Larry and I,” she said. “So much, and there is no way to thank them.”
To send monetary donations:
Strider Wolf & Gallagher Irrevocable Trust
c/o Sara Wells, Esq.
Morgan, Lewis, & Bockius
One Federal Street
Boston, MA 02110
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