EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 21, 2012

Police travel to Va. to surprise ill 5-year-old

Like many boys, Nathan Norman has heroes. Unlike most boys, though, Nathan, 5, who is fighting for his life against malignant tumors in his brain and spinal cord, got a special surprise from those heroes yesterday.

Hundreds of police officers, and several from the area, joined in a nearly 650-mile caravan from the Burlington Mall to Nathan’s hometown of Rustburg, Va., yesterday for a surprise Christmas visit. The boy counted police and firefighters among his heroes, and they have responded overwhelmingly.

Burlington police Sgt. Gerald McDonough recruited more than 250 police from Massachusetts and New Hampshire to join him in the journey, including four officers from Methuen, three from Salem, N.H., and two detectives from North Andover. Many brought Christmas cards for Nathan, who told a Durham, N.C., TV station last month he likes receiving cards.

“I think it’s wonderful to see the outpouring of support for Nathan,” said Methuen police Chief Joseph Solomon. “It’s nice to help grant a wish to someone who has a terminal disease.”

Sgt. Michael Havey, Detective Tom McMenamon and officers Donald Craig and Scott Lever represented Methuen, tying green and white ribbons on their cruisers to honor the victims in last week’s deadly school shooting in Connecticut and documenting their trip with pictures and updates on Facebook and Twitter.

North Andover police Chief Paul Gallagher said two detectives, Daniel Cronin and Sean Daley, approached him last week about using a cruiser for the trip, while paying their own way. They took a card signed by the whole department and gifts like police hats and shirts. Town Manager Andrew Maylor sent a card as well.

“They were sending pictures and said there were other officers joining them on way down,” Gallagher said. “Officers were saluting them in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, as they went through the jurisdictions.”

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