The story of 5-year-old Nathan Norman’s wish to receive cards, letters and patches from first responders around the country has received national attention. The child has been mentioned in media reports, has his own Facebook page and there’s even an entry about him on Snopes.com.
His harrowing battle with brain cancer has even touched the hearts of first responders right here in Pasco County.
When Christina Jenks, the wife of Pasco County Fire Rescue firefighter/paramedic Eric Jenks, heard about Nathan’s story, she decided to start a drive in Pasco to collect cards and patches. Christina figured she’d collect enough to fill a box to send to Nathan in time for Christmas.
Christina underestimated the response from Pasco firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement officers.
“It’s spreading like crazy,” Christina said. In fact, the plan to mail a box of cards and patches to Nathan has been nixed. “We already have five boxes.”
Considering the response, Christina and Eric now plan to drive to Virginia to deliver the boxes from Pasco to Nathan in person. They head out Jan. 8 and have extended the local drive through Jan. 4 as a result.
The reach of the local drive has also been extended. Instead of just accepting items from Pasco fire rescue and police departments, Christina has found herself collecting cards, T-shirts, patches and presents from other local agencies, including those in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. The Coast Guard and MacDill and Patrick Air Force Bases have also contributed, she said.
“I never expected to see such a turnout,” Christina said.
Nathan Norman of Rustburg, Va., was diagnosed with brain cancer in January 2009. He has undergone multiple rounds of chemotherapy and surgeries to slow the disease’s progress. The cancer has now spread to Nathan’s spinal cord, according to his family’s Caring Bridge page.
Young Nathan has said that police, firefighters and other first responders are his heroes. When he said he wanted to receive cards and other small trinkets from them, emergency workers around the country began responding in a very big way.
Support for Nathan has come in from around the country and that support has been passed along by his family. The Norman family also collects gifts for other sick kids and gives them out at Christmastime, according to their Caring Bridge page.
“The Christmas Bag project this year is going great,” Dawn Norman, Nathan’s mother, wrote on Dec. 15. "The goal was 1,000 total bags this year. We ended up with right around 3,000 bags.”
Nathan began another round of chemo in early December.
How to Help
Christina Jenks is accepting donations for Nathan locally through Jan. 4. Anyone who wishes to contribute can contact her by email at ERJenks@hotmal.com.
Cards, patches and other memorabilia can also be sent to the Normans directly at:
81 Dunivan Drive, Rustburg, Va., 24588.
The family’s Caring Bridge page also has a spot for donations.
Why are the Jenkses taking this drive so seriously?
“Nathan has become our hero to see how one little boy can bring so many men and women together,” Christina said.