After a fleet of more than 250 police officers drove in a caravan 700 miles from Burlington, Mass., to Lynchburg, Va., they were told they might not be able to complete their Christmas mission.
The convoy of cruisers, which stretched three miles long, came to Lynchburg bearing gifts for 5-year-old Nathan Norman, who suffers from a rare form of brain and spinal cord cancer. The boy had asked for cards from his heroes, police and firefighters, and 80 agencies were happy to grant his wish.
But when the officers arrived Wednesday evening, they were told that Nathan might be too ill to meet them.
“They told us that Nathan’s blood count was down,” said Wellesley police Sergeant Scott Whittemore.
But Nathan was strong enough to leave his home Thursday morning, and the officers met the boy and his family. “It was definitely a collective sigh of relief that he was well enough to be out there with us,” Whittemore said.
The officers lined up in squads on a hill outside of Liberty University in Lynchburg.
“You could just see them lined up in formation,” Nathan’s mother, Dawn Norman, said from her Rustburg home. “I can’t even tell you how awesome it was.”
Nathan and his three siblings — Sarah, 9; Matthew, 7; and Tabitha, 3 — called the officers to attention and then put them at ease, she said.
But Nathan had one more request, his mother said. He used a loudspeaker to command the officers to hop on one foot.
“He’s got a great sense of humor and he wasn’t shy at all,” Whittemore said.
The officers had come bearing plaques, patches, a motorcycle helmet, and a New England Patriots jersey with Nathan’s name on the back. Some departments granted him honorary sheriff status.
Wellesley police gave Nathan a miniature electric police cruiser that seats two and can go as fast as 5 miles per hour. The car has working lights and sirens, a mini police radio, and bears the Wellesley police logo on the side, Whittemore said.
Nathan shook hands with all the officers and was excited by each gift.
“It was worth every amount of time we put into it,” Whittemore said.
Captain Ryan Zuidema of the Lynchburg Police Department also helped organize the effort.
“As police officers, we unfortunately see a lot of bad things in our careers,” Zuidema said. “To be able to see a group of that many police officers in one place and to see Nathan’s reaction, that was absolutely incredible.”