"How can you not respond," is Tamaqua Police Chief Dave Mattson's answer to a dying six year old Virginia boy's request to receive Christmas cards and unit patches from his heroes, police officers and fire fighters.
Nathan Norman, a pediatric cancer victim from Rustburg, came to Mattson's attention through a friend in the law enforcement community. Diagnosed with brain cancer in 2009, Nathan is like any boy his age, fascinated with lights and sirens. His heroes are first responders - police, fire and emergency personnel. Unlike most six year olds, he has undergone neurosurgery, which was only able to remove a little more than half of the tumor in his brain. Since then, he has undergone two additional surgeries and six different chemotherapy sessions. Unfortunately, they have not been successful in shrinking the remaining tumor, which spread to his spine. An August scan determined the tumors were growing, and fast. Doctors gave the child a scant 18 months, at best, to live.
After his September chemo, a last-ditch effort to stabilize the tumors, Nathan asked his parents if they would put up their Christmas lights and tree, hoping it would make him feel a little better. They agreed, uncaring if the rest of the neighborhood thought they were crazy. Instead, neighbors also put up their Christmas lights. Local news crews covered the story. Virginia State Police Sgt. Robert Carpentieri thought it would be nice to send the youngster a Christmas card. But the sergeant didn't stop there. He contacted every first responder he knew and Nathan's story went viral within the Virginia police and emergency responders' community. Soon, the Norman's mail box was filled with Christmas cards and unit patches. The cards and well wishes kept coming, as local, county, state and federal agencies throughout Virginia became aware of the little boy's plight and wish.
Mattson is hoping Pennsylvania's first responders will also honor the dying child's wish and is doing his best to spread the word.
Cards, letters and unit patches may be mailed to Nathan Norman, 81 Durivan Dr., Rustburg, VA 24588. Nathan's supporters will find his story and an update on his progress at www.caringbridge.org/visit/nathannorman .