On Wednesday, December 19 2012, over 80+ Massachusetts police departments traveled to Rustburg, Virginia to visit 5 year old Nathan Norman. Nathan has been battling a rare form of brain and spine cancer since 2009. In September, Nathan's family learned that his tumors were beginning to grow again after treatment. Nathan asked his parents if they would put up the Christmas decorations and lights early because he thought the lights would make him feel better.
He also asked his parents if he could receive Christmas cards from his heroes: Police and firefighters.
Word of Nathan's story spread throughout the United States, and Nathan started to receive 15 to 20 cards a day from law enforcement agencies. He also began receiving visits from police and firefighters at his home in Rustburg, Virginia. As of Christmas Eve 2012, Nathan receives approximately 500 and 1000 cards a day.
Earlier this month, the Burlington Police Department began to organize a trip to visit Nathan at his home to hand deliver their Christmas cards. Burlington started asking other Massachusetts departments if anyone else wanted to make the 12 hour trip with them to visit Nathan.
The response was overwhelming.
At 6:30 AM on December 19th, over 80 police agencies, with 97 police cruisers carrying over 250 police officers, all of whom volunteered their time and money, departed Burlington, Massachusetts for Rustburg Virginia to hand deliver Nathan's Christmas cards, and to show a 5 year old what Massachusetts police car looks like.
Since the convoy was passing through Newtown Connecticut on Route 84, each cruiser involved was also issued a green and white ribbon to remember the innocent victims that were killed in the horrific attack at the Sandy Hook School. These ribbons were hand made for the trip by the wife of Burlington Police Lieutenant Glen Mills.
Among those agencies departing for Virginia was the Wellesley Police. The WPD had loaded up our own cruiser 1404 with cards, gifts, and presents for the entire Norman family. Wellesley officers and dispatchers came together to purchase, locate, and wrap these gifts.
The Superiors Officers Union, the Patrolman’s union, and Dispatchers union all contributed their time and money to make the trip happen. Department members managed to locate a rechargeable ride on mini police car after some considerable effort and time. Department members wanted to make the car unique and special for Nathan and his family, so the quest started to customize the mini cruiser. With the help of the Sunshine Sign Company of Grafton, officers were able to have the car detailed with custom Wellesley Police graphics and stickers. Sunshine Sign donated all of these stickers, and worked under a tremendous time constraint to meet the departure deadline.
The resulting mini cruiser was outstanding. After a lengthy inspection by Chief Cunningham to ensure accuracy, the mini cruiser was loaded up into 1404 for the trip south to Rustburg.
Chief Cunningham wanted to share the experience of the trip with the public as well. A live streaming web camera was set up in cruiser 1404, to broadcast the 12 hour trip south live on our website. The live webcam turned out to be extremely popular, and at times had over one thousand viewers watching the trip. Department members also provided regular updates via twitter on the progress of the 97 cruiser convoy as it traveled through several states. Initially, some Boston media were confused as to the purpose of the convoy as we left Burlington on Route 3 north, but this was quickly cleared up.
As the convoy travelled south, word began to spread through social media about our destination and purpose. Various police agencies along the route started to appear in order to show their support for the cause. The Pennsylvania State Police escorted us through most of the state. PSP even coordinated our pit stop in Greencastle for fuel.
The convoy pressed on through West Virginia and Virginia, finally arriving in Lynchburg shortly before 7PM.
The next morning the convoy formed up again at 8:30 AM for the trip to visit with Nathan at Liberty University in Lynchburg. The Lynchburg Police Department and Burlington Police did a fantastic job of coordinating our route to see Nathan.
Officers met with Nathan initially outside, where Nathan gave the formation of 250 officers various commands. Then officers were able to meet with Nathan and his family inside Liberty University. The Wellesley Police Department, working with Burlington Police, was able to live stream the event over our website. This enabled a much larger audience to share in our experience no matter where they were in the world. Nathan also seemed to enjoy the webcam as well.
As the reception with Nathan wound down, WPD 1404 had one final, if not critical, mission. Deliver the mini cruiser to Nathan’s home and set it up before he arrived. After a quick ride up a steep mountain road, the mini cruiser was set up in front of the now famous Norman Family Christmas decorations. The final touch was placing a build a bear German Shepherd in the front seat, dressed in a police uniform that department members had made for Nathan.
WPD 1404, its mission on behalf of the entire Wellesley Police Department now complete, refueled, and started on the twelve hour trek northbound for home. 1404 did stop briefly at the Baltimore Police Department’s vaunted Eastern District to quickly check in and have dinner.
The Wellesley Police Department would like to formally thank the members of the Burlington Police Department, especially Sergeant Jerry McDonough, for including our department in this exceptionally well planned and executed trip to visit Nathan.