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Michael Brandy, Deseret News
Salt Lake Fire Department Capt. Barry Bonham, left, puts a helmet on Andy Noble, who gathers emergency-services paraphernalia.

Andy Noble was not disappointed to make an unexpected stop at a police station during his family's road trip.

Even though it was his fault.

The 7-year-old had handcuffed his brother for fun, but he lost the keys.

Ever since Andy Noble was 5, he has wanted to be a police officer, or firefighter, or paramedic or any type of public safety officer, according to his mother, Laurie Noble.

"When he was 3 years old, he was fascinated with police cars and firetrucks," Laurie Noble said. "When he was 5, he discovered what those occupations were all about. He's been obsessed with it."

Laurie Noble, from Michigan, adopted Andy when he was a fetal alcohol syndrome baby with myriad physical challenges. He was not expected to live a year. Now, after surviving 70 surgeries, he is 18 years old and he wants to do the saving.

Today and Saturday, Andy Noble's collection of 15,000 police and firefighter patches from all over the world will be displayed for the public at the EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City. Donations received at the event will go to the University Health Care Burn Camp.

"It's his chance to give back," Laurie Noble said.

Andy Noble's collection started when he was 7 years old. His mother wrote a letter to Santa requesting patches from police and firefighters because her boy wanted to be like them.

The letter was printed in the local newspaper — and Santa responded. Soon, she said, she was writing 100 letters a month, by hand, to different police and fire departments nationwide — and then the worldwide — requesting a patch for her son. Andy Noble had a goal to have the largest collection of police, fire and EMS memorabilia in the world.

Laurie Noble said she has had a variety of responses over the years. One of the few experiences that stand out was Andy's 13th birthday.

"Blair County, Pennsylvania, sent two big boxes of stuff," Laurie Noble said.

The family later stopped by the Blair County Fire Department on a road trip. Noble said they had firefighters and police officers from every department there to greet Andy. They raised the ladders on two trucks so the buckets were touching to make a tunnel through which the Nobles could enter.

"It was unreal what they put together for us," Laurie Noble said.

In 2003, Larry Hendricks with Oakland Firefighters Random Acts met Laurie Noble and found out that Andy had an unbelievable amount of police and firefighter paraphernalia stored in boxes in his sister's room in Michigan.

"I was overwhelmed," Hendricks said. "It means a lot when firefighters give their patch to children."

Hendricks suggested to Laurie Noble that they put the patch collection together in a display.

"It was physically impossible for him to see his life's work," Hendricks said.

After searching for two years for someone who would take on the sewing project, Hendricks asked The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Humanitarian Center. The church organization accepted the challenge in May 2007.

"Over 100 volunteers put their hearts into this," Hendricks said.

John Yancey, assistant manager at the Humanitarian Center, said the project was bigger than they anticipated.

"Two groups of ladies worked on the project for nine months,' Yancey said. "They turned out beautifully."

Signe Jacobsen was a service missionary at the Humanitarian Center when the banners were put together. She said there are 286 banners.

"It was a privilege and an incredible experience," Jacobsen said.

Meanwhile, Andy Noble has been sent more patches. When the Salt Lake Fire Department went to the airport to pick up the Nobles in fire trucks Wednesday, Laurie Noble said her son has been sent approximately 1,500 more patches and other police and fire paraphernalia. Jacobsen said the Humanitarian Center made empty banners for more patches.

Andy and Laurie Noble have yet to see the banners.

"It's going to be a surprise for us, too," Noble said.

Andy Noble's patch collection will open at the EnergySolutions Arena to the general public today from 1:30 to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event is free. Donations will be accepted in firefighter boots.


E-mail: MBennett@desnews.com