GEAUGA COUNTY, Ohio – If you just looked at the smile on Dutch Cole’s face Saturday, you’d never guess he was battling a rare form of cancer.
The three-year old was diagnosed in February, and has been going through chemotherapy ever since.
But today, on his third birthday, Dutch wasn’t a cancer patient. He was an honorary Hambden Township firefighter.
The way he earned that honor started back in May, when he and his parents stopped for ice cream after an appointment at the Cleveland Clinic. Dutch ended up getting a double treat: ice cream and an up-close meeting with his heroes, Hambden firefighters.
“We were pulling in and I saw him watching us,” said Captain Dave Peterson. “He was so excited to see us. He came up to us, wanting to see the truck.”
Peterson, and firefighter Callahan Henderson let Dutch and his siblings sit in the truck. The family also got invited to stop at the station. The story of their touching encounter later went viral.
But Dutch’s firefighter friendship didn’t end there. Today they surprised him with a visit to his house to celebrate his third birthday.
Dutch beamed as he sat in the truck, and even sprayed his dad with the fire hose.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Sam Cole. “You look back on your childhood, and you’re like, ‘I didn’t get any big fire trucks’ and stuff. It’s pretty awesome to see all this come through and all these people come out, people who supported us along the way. It’s pretty awesome.”
“No words could really describe watching the fire trucks come up and just seeing his excitement,” said Dutch’s mom Lynn. “Every day with Dutch is a blessing. It’s a big day for us.”
His parents were concerned today’s surprise wouldn’t come off. Dutch wasn’t feeling well yesterday.
“The last couple of days he hasn’t had the best days,” Sam said. “He’s been real tired and stuff, so we got a little worried. But today when he woke up, he was all excited.”
Captain Peterson says this special friendship goes both ways.
“This is an awesome experience for us, probably as much as it is for him,” said Peterson. “Dutch has become part of our family ever since the day we met him and heard about his battle with cancer. So as soon as we got the invitation to come out here and do this for him, we’ve all been looking forward to it.”
It’s a toddler birthday party no one involved will ever forget!
A friend set up a GoFundMe account to help the Coles with medical bills.