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The Macomb Daily

Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Prize patch collection being woven into quilt

Teen stricken with childhood disease has spent his life gathering patches from police, firefighters.

By Amanda Lee
Macomb Daily Staff Writer

Members of the Roseville Fire Department are giving one boy a very special ride.

Andy Noble, 17, let his hometown heroes transport his most prized possession -- 15,000 patches collected from police and fire departments all over the country -- to Metro Airport on Monday as part of a special "convoy" for the service organization fanatic.

"Andy really loves all police and fire men," said his mother, Laurie Noble. "He's obsessed. It's pretty much all he thinks about, so for them to do this is really great."

Andy, who battles chronic pulmonary disease and has to breathe with the help of a ventilator, first became obsessed with collecting the patches when he was 6 years old.

"We didn't think he was going to make it to his birthday so we started celebrating it early and we were traveling around to a few departments because it was the most important thing to him," Laurie Noble said.

At the party, an officer brought patches and Andy couldn't take his eyes off them. "That was it for him," his mother said. "From then on all he wanted was patches."

Andy also suffers from central apnea and cerebral palsy and is missing part of his spine from an accident. His mother said, though, he doesn't allow his illness to take away from his collecting.

"At one point he was having 60 seizures a day but we were still taking him out to get his patches; he wouldn't let us forget," Laurie Noble said. "He's singular sometimes in his approach."

Even though he can't speak, Andy Noble has learned to communicate with firefighters and police officers he comes in contact with for the badges.

"He usually gets what he wants," his mother said.

A few years ago, the family traveled to Oakland, Calif., where they met with members of a fire department who took a shine to the youngster. Larry Hendricks, one of those firefighters, ran into the Noble family a year later at a fire chaplain conference in Louisville, Ky., and started to come up with an idea for the patches.

"I realized then that it was impossible for him to see his whole collection and his life's work," Hendricks wrote in a letter.

Hendricks traveled to Salt Lake City earlier this year and came into contact with LDS Charities and the idea to turn the patches into a traveling quilt was born. Hendricks volunteered to fly to Detroit on Monday to collect the patches, which will then be made into 3-by-8-inch panels for the quilt. The quilt will ultimately be several hundred feet long.

"Laurie Noble's dream is for Andy to travel and see every state with the time he has left," Hendricks wrote. "It is her desire to use the quilt to raise money for fire and police charities."

Mrs. Noble said she was pleased when she heard about the plan and excited that the Roseville Fire Department agreed to help by transporting the patches to the airport.

"This is a chance for Andy to let law enforcement and fire department personnel know just how much he honestly cares about them and the fact that they lay their lives on the line every day," she said. "It's an opportunity for him to say thanks. He genuinely does care for them.

"He reminds me of Will Rogers; he never met a fire and police man he didn't like," she said.

Scott Bala, a Roseville firefighter, said his department was thrilled to help. "It's a great story, and he's a real inspiration," he said. "We were glad to help."

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