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Home | Media & Press

Friday, July 30, 1999
By Nicole Meinhelt, Journal Writer

Fire, police personnel make ailing boy's day

If a smile is worth a million dollars, nine-year-old Andy Noble's smile is worth a million words too.

Andy, who suffers from cerebral palsy and brain, kidney and lung disease, has a trachea tube in his throat and cannot talk. He is confined to a wheelchair and suffers around 10 seizures a day.

His main method of communication os through facial expressions and hand movements.

"Just watching his face says if all," said Jeff Bruno of Kankakee Fire Department.

All day Wednesday, Andy's smile never faded.

Bruno coordinated a special day for Andy, who is fascinated by police and firefighters and the work they do.

The day began around 10 a.m. when Andy was wheeled out of the Hampton Inn in Bradley to see a fire truck, several police cars, a jeep and an ambulance.

Andy excitedly pointed to the fire truck, parked directly in front of the main entrance, and the firefighters and police officers gathered around.

Police officers from Kankakee City Police, Kankakee County Sheriff's Police, Bradley Police and Bourbonnais Police gave Andy police patches, T-shirts, badges and other souvenirs from the departments.

Kankakee City Police made Andy an honorable Junior Police Officer with a certificate signed by the chief of police and Kankakee mayor. The sheriff's police gave Andy a DARE Bear, and Kankakee firefighters gave Andy a stuffed dalmation.

Even with his lap overflowing with badges, certificates and toys, Andy was most fascinated with the fire truck, police cars and ambulance.

Soon Andy was loaded into the fire truck and taken for a ride on the road running around Northfield Square mall.

As the truck pulled away from the motel, Andy waved to his grandmother, who was vidoetaping the whole morning.

After the fire truck ride, Andy was taken around in a police Jeep, a police car and ambulance before getting a glimpse of the Kankakee area from the air.

Kankakee firefighters set up the fire truck in the parking lot of Nortfield Square mall, just outside of J.C. Penny's, and raised Andy in a basket.

From his perch in the sky, Andy waved to his mother, who was snapping pictures, and his grandmother, who had the video camera in hand.

In the afernoon, Bruno and several members of the Kankakee Fire and Police departments took Andy and his family out for a ride in the park district's pontoon boat on the river.

Bruno pointed out different sites along the river, including the Frank Lloyd Wright House, the Kankakee Elks Country Club and other sites, but Andy's favorite view was watching the River Patrol boat which followed the pontoon in case anything should happen and Andy needed to be rushed to shore.

Andy even got a short ride onn the River Patrol boat and came back all smiles.

Along for the whole trip was Andy's trusty friend, a stuffed doll named Harry. Harry has been through two surgeries with Andy and has earned the nickname Harry Houdini since the doll was once a skeleton, but all of the bones painted on the stuffed toy have disappeared.

"This is the biggest surprise he has ever had," said Melissa Noble, Andy's sister. "As soon as I saw the fire truck outside of the hotel I knew it was for Andy."

Miss Noble knew it was for Andy because he has made a hobby out of collecting patches from police and fire departments around the world.

Andy's collection started small. His goal was to collect 1,000 patches, but he soon met that and set a new goal; to set the record for the largest patch collection.

Andy's collection now totals over 4,000 patches, including patches from Bradley, Bourbonnais, Kankakee County and Kankakee city fire and police departments.

Bruno got involved in Andy's project earlier this year when a relative living near Andy's hometown of Eastpointe, Mich, sent him a copy of the article that ran in Andy's local paper when Andy's collection reached 1,000 patches.

Bruno sent Andy patches from all of the Kankakee area fire and police districts and offered him a ride on the fire truck if Andy was ever in the area.

When Andy's family was planning a vacation to Wisconsin, Andy's mom, Laurie, worte Bruno and told them they would be in the area and Bruno set to work arranging for hotel accommodations, entertainment and Wednesday's special rides.

"I'm very grateful for the turnout (of fire and police districts) around the area," Bruno said.

Even Andy's mom was a little surprised by the turnout. While she expected the fire truck, but she didn't think there would be as many participating units as there were.

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