(Dec. 5, 2014) Hundreds of police officers across the country responded to a local 5-year-old’s calls for help with a class project last month. Now, Mason Hetherington is paying it forward.
Hetherington, a kindergartener at Ocean City Elementary School, decided he would try to collect 100 police patches in 100 days. His mother, Eliza Mason, set up a post office box and took to Facebook to help her son reach his goal.
By the following morning, more than 400 people had shared the Facebook post. By the end of the week, he reached his goal.
The Worcester County Sheriff’s Department surprised the family at their Berlin home in mid-October, pulling into the driveway with six flashing police cars and half a dozen officers carrying patches. The generosity continued to spread across the country.
As of Tuesday, he had collected 758 patches from more than 40 states in the U.S. Some came from as far away as Northern Ireland and the Maldives.
His mother said the flurry of packages has finally started to slow.
“This is the first week where he’s gone to the post office box and there hasn’t been one,” she said last week. “That was a little bit rough for him to take. He’s been so excited.”
The family keeps the patches in their rec room, sorted into piles by region. Eliza said Mason is only missing patches from five states in the U.S., mostly from the Midwest.
With Christmas around the corner, Eliza said the “overwhelming” response would be hard to top. Instead, she and her son are focusing on giving back.
“We found out about a child in New York named Sean Cadden who is 10 and he has cancer,” she said. “He is the son of a police officer in New York and he wants to decorate his treatment room with patches while he is being hospitalized for 10 weeks. We have kind of buddied up with this kid, and now Mason is sending him all of the duplicate patches that he’s received.”
“It’s awesome because on the days when Mason doesn’t have any patches, we are still sending packages out, so he still gets to go to the post office and send something to his little buddy in New York,” she added. “He writes him a little letter and he sends him patches every week.”
Eliza said watching her son give back is the “best part so far.”
“I think he has realized how incredibly fortunate he is,” she said. “This child wants for nothing, so now he realizes that he’s been the recipient of all this generosity. This Christmas we’re really going to focus on giving back.”
Patch for Sean Cadden can be mailed to Town of Newburgh Police Department, Attention Sgt. Pat Cadden, 300 Gardnertown Road, Newburgh, NY 12550.