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PATCH DISPLAY Debut

The Andy Noble Patch Collection will debut in Salt Lake City, Utah on August 15th & 16th, sponsored by the Utah Jazz. Come join us at EnergySolutions Arena

View a gallery of photos from the event
 

 

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Detroit Teen Dreams of Oakland Firefighting

Along with a patch, Andy rides in a firetruck

By Mike Adamick
Staff Writer

OAKLAND — He had the hat, the jacket and the patches.

He had the equipment — the firetruck, the fire hose, the helicopter, even.

He had the crew — in this case Oakland Fire Chief Gerald Simon and firefighter Gerald Stein.

And for a brief moment Sunday, Andy Noble — a 13-year-old from Detroit who uses a wheelchair— had tight hold of his dream: to be a firefighter.

"He's in heaven right now," said his mother, Laurie, as Andy was helped from a firetruck at Oakland Station No. 22.

Andy came to Oakland thanks to a network of groups and people who pulled together to provide the free trip, hotel, vans and tours.

It didn't start that way.

About six months ago, Andy— who has been collecting law enforecement patches since he was a toddler — wrote to the Oakland Fire Department in an attempt to add to his collection of 10,000.

What he received, however, was an outpouring of community spirit.

A simple request for a patch turned into a weeklong, all-expense paid trip to Oakland so Andy could ride in a firetruck, maybe spray a hose and, more importantly, realize that dreams can indeed come true.

People take to Andy quickly. Led by his big smile and bright eyes, they seem to follow wherever he wants to go.

On Sunday he wanted to take a ride in a firetruck.

So Simon and Stein helped Andy, sho suffers from lung disease and has cerebral palsy, into the cab of a shiny yellow firetruck to tour the Oakland International Airport with sirens blaring and firehose spraying. Fire Station No. 22 is on a tarmac of the airport.

Simon said a simple patch was not enough for Andy, so he and his staff made some inquiries and eventually put together the trip with the help of several firefighter groups — and Andy's adopted grandfather.

Pitching in were Oakland Firefighters Random Acts of Kindness, the International Association of Firefighters Local 55, the Oakland Black Firefighters Association. the Oakland Firefighter Sports Authority and the Hospitality Fund, as well as numerous businesses and individuals.

Bill Barnes of Novato, who also collects patches and has been a pen pal with Andy for years, was also on hand to meet him. The two have known each other for so long through letters that Andy adopted the man as a grandfather. but they had not me since this week.

"He's just so excited to be out here and you can see it," Barnes said.

Simon, too was excited about the trip. He wanted to be sure Andy could be a firefighter "at the world's best fire department," he said.

But there was something deeper, somthing just under the surface that would prompt a busy fire chief to help organize a special for a youngster almost a country away.

"People have a dream and we as adults, it's our responsibility to make people's dreams come true," Simon said.

 
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