The only thing on Dawn Norman's wish list this holiday season is that her 6-year old son Nathan lives to see another Christmas, and that his wish of receiving cards, letters and patches from as many policemen, firemen and EMTs is fulfilled. Why? Because policemen, firemen and EMTs happen to be Nathan's heroes.
Three years ago, Nathan, who lives with his family in Rustburg, Virginia, was diagnosed with brain cancer.
"I remember the doctor saying that there was an abnormality," Dawn Norman remembers. "The doctor kept telling me over and over that there was an abnormality and then it hit me. He was telling me that my son had cancer."
An operation removed 55% of the tumor; however, Nathan has since developed an inoperable tumor on his spinal cord. Since his original diagnosis, he has been on six different chemotherapy treatments and has had three surgeries.
Like most little boys, Nathan loves to watch cops, firemen and emergency medical personnel speed to calls in shiny cars and trucks —sirens blaring and lights flashing —making no stops as they race to save people.
This Christmas, Nathan is calling upon these heroes to make his wish come true by sending him cards, letters and patches —anything with a first responder insignia.
"One of our life-saving crew members told us Nathan's story and said it would be a nice gesture to send him a card," Carpentieri said.
Carpentieri not only sent a card, but sent emails to almost every first responder he knew to do the same.
"I couldn't believe how viral this went," he said in amazement. "Everyone who heard Nathan's story, helped to spread the word."
Agencies across the state of Virginia — local, county, state and federal — heeded the call and sent Nathan cards, letters and patches.
"As long as Nathan is here, I want to do anything I can to make that little boy happy," Carpentieri said.
In New Jersey, New Milford Chief of Police Frank Papapietro has shared Nathan's story with the officers of the New Milford Police Department and the Bergen County Police Chiefs Association to have them join in on fulfilling Nathan's Christmas wish.
"When you hear a story like this, it's impossible not to think that this could be your child," Papapietro said. "The officers of the New Milford Police Department will do everything they can to make Nathan's wish come true."
This August, feeling especially ill after returning from his monthly treatment at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina, Nathan asked his parents if they could decorate the house for Christmas because "that would make him feel better." Knowing that this might be his last Christmas, Nathan's family put up the tree, strung the lights and put out all the decorations.
Wanting to join in the spirit, Nathan's neighbors decorated their yards and strung their outdoor lights to make, what might be, Nathan's last Christmas really spectacular.
"Nathan is such a brave warrior," his mother Dawn told Patch. "He has taught me so much through his love, strength and faith."
Putting his own pain aside, Nathan likes to make gift bags for the other pediatric cancer patients he meets during his monthly treatment travels to Duke University Medical Center. His mother said that he likes to do things to make the other cancer patients feel better.
Despite the monthly treatments and chemotherapy medication, Norman said that doctors have given Nathan 18 months to live.
"I want to make sure that everyone understands that we do not expect to lose Nathan before Christmas this year," Norman said. "However we know with each end of treatment, our options are getting less and less. We fully believe he will be with us for Christmas."
Then she added, "We just don't know about next Christmas."
All cards, letters and patches can be sent to Nathan at:
Nathan Norman, 81 Dunivan Drive, Rustburg, Virginia 24588