By Jill Harmacinski
---- — Tyler Seddon turns 7 today and it will be a birthday he won’t soon forget.
With a strong contingent from the Merrimack Valley, hundreds of police officers, firefighters and ambulance workers from Massachusetts are headed to Rhode Island this morning to fulfill the young cancer patient’s birthday wish.
For the second time now, Tyler is battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. In mid-February, his mother put out a request to first responders asking them to send him cards for his March 6 birthday. She wanted it to be the best day of his life.
Since then, “Tyler’s Troops” quickly mobilized after his story went viral. Already he’s received cards and gifts from around the world. The Los Angeles and Miami-Dade police department sent him special messages. He’s also being named police colonel today in his hometown of Burrillville, R.I., according to press reports.
Recently, a friend sent Lawrence firefighter Adam Marino a link to Tyler’s story.
“It just touched me. I wanted to try to make him smile,” said Marino, the father of three boys and a 14-year firefighter.
“I love working with kids and being around kids. And here’s this kid who has already beat cancer once and now he has to beat it again,” Marino said.
This morning, Marino accompanied by four fellow Lawrence firefighters — Juan “Manny” Gonzalez, Jose Ortiz, Joe Maloney and Michael Delaney Jr. — are heading to Rhode Island in a department SUV to see Tyler.
The Lawrence firefighters will be among 75 fire departments from Massachusetts sending a variety of apparatus for Tyler’s birthday. Lawrence firefighters all signed a giant card for Tyler and a collection of patches for the boy was organized by Deputy Chief Brian Murphy.
The Methuen Fire Department also sent an engine in this morning’s convoy, according to a listing provided by the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts.
Andover Police Sgt. Chad Cooper put together a box of items for Tyler. Haverhill police officers Jason Pearl and Nick Brown are driving in this morning’s convoy, bringing along two giant cards signed by the Haverhill Police Department, said Lt. Robert Pistone.
From Methuen police, officers Don Craig, Derek Licata and Scott Lever are escorting an enormous signed birthday card from the police department along with a framed police department plaque for Tyler.
This is the second time the Methuen officers participated in such an effort for a child battling cancer. In December 2012, Methuen police were among a convoy of 250 officers and 100 cruisers who went to Virginia to see Nathan Norman, a now 7-year-old boy battling brain cancer. Similarly to Tyler, Nathan viewed first responders are heroes and wanted cards from them. Many of the officers remain in contact with Nathan today.
In a press release yesterday, Massachusetts State Police acknowledged the outpouring of the support for Tyler’s birthday wish was “tremendous.”
Marino said he had to be there today for Tyler.
“No 7-year-old should have to go through what he went through. He’s just down the street in Rhode Island. Why wouldn’t we try to help him out,” Marino said.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.