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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It started as a small effort to brighten the holiday season for a local boy who lost his dad. Well, a call for a few firefighter patches was answered from people all across the country.
And then all across the globe.
What was once a small effort made for an enormous surprise Monday night.
This Christmas Eve could have been really hard — a season, and a day that might have highlighted for a 10-year-old boy what he was missing and who wasn’t there.
Eyewitness News interviewed Evan Potter back in November. He had lost his Philadelphia firefighter father suddenly in 2016 and said he was hoping for a few fire company patches for Christmas as a way to honor his dad, Michael.
Unknown to Evan, Engine 33 was already on the job. They had collected about 100 patches for Evan at that point.
“I knew this was going to happen.. because this is how firemen are,” Fireman Charles Sgrillo said.
Evan’s wish had gone viral, but still, Evan was in the dark.
“It was a big secret, we didn’t want to ruin it for him so I had to keep him off the internet and he wasn’t allowed to watch TV,” his mother Amanda said.
“Everyday it was bins and bins coming, it was astonishing,” Philadelphia firefighter Derek Moffett said.
And then on Christmas Eve, boxes upon boxes were packed up, Santa loaded up, and off to Evan’s house they went.
Evan didn’t quite know what to make of it. Until the boxes full of gifts for him and his sister were placed under the tree, including thousands of patches from hundreds of patches from hundreds of cities from every state in the U.S. and almost every continent.
“I have a whole dining room full of patches,” Amanda Potter said.
It was a gesture to prove to Evan that he is not alone, not by a longshot. And instead, Evan is an honorary fireman, literally, in several states and a little brother to thousands across the world.
“When you sign up for this job, you sign up for a whole lot more than just a job,” Moffett said.
To put it in perspective, out of all the boxes full of patches under the tree, there were eight more still at the firehouse.