FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It started with a simple wish for birthday cards a week before his sixth birthday and ended with a birthday celebration unlike any other at Patriot Place and Gillette Stadium on Saturday, July 26.
Danny Nickerson, a Foxborough boy with an inoperable brain tumor, celebrated his sixth birthday on Friday, July 25, with a trip to Legoland in Boston before meeting New England Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft at Gillette Stadium.
During the visit, Danny and his family toured the Patriots' trophy room before taking a walk onto the Gillette Stadium field, where they were greeted by Pat Patriot, the team's official mascot, and Patriots Cheerleaders.
"We got out on the field and Danny's name was up on the video boards, which was absolutely awesome," said Daniel Jamieson, Danny's father. "I never thought one of my family member's names would be up on the video board in Gillette Stadium."
Kraft presented Danny with a card signed by the entire New England Patriots team and a gift bag, which included Patriots-themed toys and a customized Patriots jersey. Following the special field visit, Patriot Place treated Danny and his family to a birthday lunch at SkipJack's.
"Seeing Danny smile so much has been amazing," said Jamieson. "Everything Mr. Kraft and the Kraft family have done to help out my family and show support for my son is incredible."
The show of support for Danny didn't stop there, as Cops for Kids with Cancer organized a surprise birthday party for the six-year-old and his family at Patriot Place and Gillette Stadium on Saturday, July 26.
"Hopefully this helps Danny and his family know they aren't alone," said Burlington Police Sgt. Gerard McDonough, one of the organizers of Saturday's event. "I've read that Danny can feel alone and sad at times, so we want the family to know they are not alone and they are not fighting alone."
Danny's special day began with a convoy of more than 100 police, fire and EMS vehicles arriving at Gillette Stadium shortly before 9 a.m. Hundreds of public safety officials representing more than 40 communities throughout the region then gathered on the steps of Patriot Place's grand staircase to sing "Happy Birthday" to the guest of honor.
"Seeing all the police, firefighters and motorcycle riders showing up to support my son is absolutely emotional and really nice," said Jamieson.
The celebration continued on the first floor of CBS Scene with a public safety-themed birthday cake that featured a photo of Danny on a motorcycle and a presentation of birthday cards and gifts from each agency, including a motorized toy police car from Boston Police, which Danny drove around NRG Plaza until the power ran out.
"It's been an incredible and emotional day," said Canton Police Deputy Chief Helena Rafferty, who also serves as President of Cops for Kids with Cancer. "Every little boy loves police and fire and it is such an honor to be part of this special day."
Foxborough police officer Stephen McGrath said participating in Saturday's celebration was important to the department because Danny is a relative of one of their sergeants.
"We knew that participating today would be just one way to demonstrate our support to Danny and his family, and also to our sergeant," said McGrath. "I know how important it is to them and I think they need to know not only the Foxborough Police Department is behind them, but the support extends throughout law enforcement and communities across the region. This event brings everything into focus for us and we are honored to be a part of it."
After cake and presents at CBS Scene, the party moved to Patriots Training Camp where another surprise was waiting for Danny.
Toward the end of practice, Kraft invited Danny and his parents onto the field where the entire team, including head coach Bill Belichick, gathered around the Foxborough family and sang "Happy Birthday" to Danny.
"It's been an incredible day for Danny and the Patriots singing 'Happy Birthday' to my son was a real touching moment that will stay with me for the rest of my life," said Jamieson.
Danny's mother, Carley Nickerson, was equally grateful for all the support her family has received since making a public request for birthday cards for her son.
"It's overwhelming," Carley said. "Everyone has been amazing. They've all come together and are here for our little boy."
Danny has received more than 150,000 birthday cards in the 10 days since his wish was made public. Some cards have been sent from as far away as Japan, and mail is still coming in.
"It's been amazing to see him so happy," said Carley. "He loves getting mail."
For Sgt. McDonough and Cops for Kids with Cancer, the goal for Saturday was a simple one – make Danny and his family smile.
"As long as Danny was smiling and we gave the family some happy memories it was mission accomplished for us," said McDonough. "We are very grateful to the Kraft family and the Patriots organization for giving us the venue to be able to do this and we were very happy for the show of support to Danny and thank all the officers who were able to come out."