Fire department surprises child with special visit

Photos by Marty Gordon
Members of the Christiansburg Fire Department gather in front of the home of three-year-old Parker Coleman who they surprised with a visit through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

CHRISTIANSBURG–Youngsters are always fascinated with fire trucks, and the Christiansburg Fire Department made Tuesday even more special for a three-year-old with a rare disease.

Parker Coleman is presented with several fire items from the department including his own fire suit, helmet and badge. Also pictured is his grandfather, A.K. Briele.

In cooperation with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, firefighters pulled up to the driveway of Parker Bryan Coleman and sounded the sirens.

The child and his parents, Sarah and Bryan Coleman came to the front yard as the trucks slowed down in front of their home.

Members of the fire department had a meeting scheduled, but they cancelled it to bring 12 pieces of fire equipment to Brooklyn Drive including the ladder truck and four other engines.

The Coleman family had told neighbors ahead of time that a fire truck was coming to their house, but they didn’t expect the outpouring of support and the large number of trucks lined up and down the street.

Neighbors were standing in their yard, waving to the firefighters. Parker’s mother Sarah was at a loss for words.

“This is unbelievable, and he will never stop talking about it,” she said.

Parker was diagnosed two years ago with Leigh disease, a rare inherited neurometabolic disorder that affects the central nervous system. Typically, it affects children shortly after birth but can also attack adults of any age.

According to the U.S. Library of Medicine, the first signs of Leigh syndrome seen in infancy are usually vomiting, diarrhea and difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), which disrupts eating. These problems often result in an inability to grow and gain weight at the expected rate (failure to thrive). Severe muscle and movement problems are common in Leigh syndrome. Affected individuals may develop weak muscle tone (hypotonia), involuntary muscle contractions (dystonia) and problems with movement and balance (ataxia).

The disease is extremely rare, and there is currently little or no treatment. The family remains optimistic and just returned from an examination by a doctor in Akron, Ohio that is considering the possibility of using an experimental drug

Tuesday, close to 35 firefighters overwhelmed the family when they walked up to the porch in the pouring rain.

They presented Parker with his own fire suit, helmet, badge, fire patches and a plaque making him an “honorary Christiansburg fireman.”

He was a little shy with the large number of visitors, but jumped at the opportunity to crawl into a fire truck and ride down the street as they sounded the siren. Afterwards, he sat proudly on his grandfather’s lap in the passenger seat waving to family as everyone gathered for a group picture. He wore his new Christiansburg Fire Department jacket and fire truck hoodie.

Fire Chief Billy Hanks said it was an honor for his department to make a wish come true for the youngster.

“Parker has a fire house and plays with it all time, and has a big fire truck that he got at Christmas. He loves fire trucks so this was amazing,” Sara Coleman said.

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