All Nathan Norman wants for Christmas is the swag of cops, firefighters and paramedics – his heroes.
Nathan, a 6-year-old boy battling terminal brain cancer in Rustburg, Va, admires no one more than people willing to risk their own lives to save the lives of others.
His Christmas wish recently floated 900 miles south, to Boynton Beach, where the city's cops, firefighters and paramedics are now sending a box of "get well" cards, agency patches, posters, shirts, hats and autographed photos to Nathan's home.
"It was an opportunity," said police spokeswoman Stephanie Slater, "to put a smile on the face of 6-year-old boy battling cancer."
Nathan has been fighting brain cancer since January 2009, when doctors found a tumor. They immediately operated. But over the next three years, the brain cancer progressed.
Now, Nathan has an inoperable tumor in his spine. He has been through three surgeries and six rounds of chemo, but none have moved the boy closer to getting better.
Virginia State Police recently put out a special request to police agencies across the country. Word eventually funneled down to Gainesville, then to a crime scene investigator with Boynton Beach Police.
It wasn't long before the K-9 Unit took pictures with their dogs. SWAT officers, Fire Rescue personnel and EMTs soon posed for photos and signed autographs.
Everyone sent cards.
"Nathan, you are our HERO," read a homemade card autographed by officers.
Fire Rescue Division Chief Ray Altman sent Nathan a commemorative coin from the "We Will Never Forget 9-11" Foundation. It's a coin Altman cherishes.
"When I hold one of these coins it makes me feel safe and strong," Altman wrote in a note. "I know that you will feel it too."
Boynton Beach Police officer Steve Schoenfeld knows how it feels to have a community rally around him and a sick family member.
His 14-year-old daughter, Maggie, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2007. The diagnosis drew the support of the Boynton Beach community. Maggie has been in remission for the past two years.
"It's an indescribable feeling to be surrounded with support," said Schoenfeld, 51. "Nathan and his family need the support."