A special boy gets the royal treatment when he comes to Boca Grande

December 4, 2015
By Marcy Shortuse

Holden cropped
BY SUE ERWIN – Finding out that your child has a brain tumor is unfathomable, but once the shock of the news has passed, the next course of action is to help them continue on with a joyous, happy life.
One generous woman and several local island professionals pulled together to make a very special occasion for a 6-year-old who is living with a malignant brain tumor.
When island property owner Sue Randall learned about it, she knew she needed to do something to help. The family went on a trip to Disney World in October sponsored by the Make-a-Wish Foundation. With the understanding that the family wanted to relax and enjoy some time at the beach, she graciously offered a vacation getaway at her home on the island so they could spend time together.
Holden2“I just thought they really deserved it – the kids had never been to a beach,” Randall said. “I was surprised, though, when Leslie Lanni from Sotheby’s emailed me asking if I personally knew the family. Forgetting that I had previously mentioned the Make-a-Wish aspect, I didn’t fully grasp the extent of their plans,” Randall said.
When Leslie contacted the Boca Grande Fire Department, she told them about the family and asked if the boy could tour the fire department.
“I just thought a tour would make him really happy, and when I called them about it they were all for it,” Lanni said.
But Lt. Lee Cooper had bigger plans in mind. He and three of the firefighters took two fire trucks over to the vacation property, dressed the boy in a miniature fireman’s uniform and let him ride the truck back to the station, with his family riding along in the other truck. They gave him a tour, showed him how the fire hose worked, and let him sit in their recliners where they had quite the Star Wars discussion.
“We called the boy’s mother and asked her if we could pick him up in the fire truck at their home. We brought along a few bunker gear outfits for him to try on to get the right fit, as we informed our new young rookie firefighter that he would be attending fire school at our station. He quickly became our honorary chief for the day,” Lt. Cooper said. “We have always been open to having children come to the fire station, not only for the educational aspect but also for the sheer excitement of what it means to be a firefighter. This would be an extra special occasion, as we were aware of the child’s medical condition … which we would later discover is a serious medical condition.”
Holden appeared to have a great time, proudly posing in his uniform with his parents, Steve and Beth, his sisters and the BGFD team in front of the fire station.
“I can’t thank the fire department enough for making this boy’s trip to Boca Grande so special,” said Randall. “A huge thank you to Lt. Cooper and firemen Damon Williams, Wayne Griffith, Casey Taylor and Eric Lynn. Of course this wouldn’t have been possible without the caring, generous folks at Sotheby’s Gulf to Bay. I am so proud to be a part of this wonderful Boca Grande community.”