All 50 states are now on Team Carter

Jul 6, 2015

By Dink NeSmith
President, Community Newspapers, Inc

You know what happens when the proverbial pebble is tossed into a pond. When that tiny rock hits the water—even with the smallest splash—the concentric circles go on and on. That’s how I can best explain what happened last year after a single e-mail, and the digital ripples are still making waves. 

It all started with an e-mail from Pete Hires, a lifelong friend, who now lives in Rhode Island. Pete’s dad, Aubrey, called my dad “Neighbor,” because we lived next door on Younce Street. Sixty years later, Aubrey and Big Dink are gone. Now, Pete and I refer to each other as “Neighbor.” Neighbor sent an electronic note to classmates Joe and Judy Phelps and me telling about his first-grade, special-needs grandson who is fascinated by fire fighters. Pete wondered whether we could round up a few fire department patches. 

In an Oct. 27, 2014, column, I asked my readers to join Team Carter. The Georgia Press Association rallied its member newspapers to join our little buddy’s team. After the National Newspaper Association ran a front-page article about Team Carter, the drive went nationwide. 

Recently, I got a report from Carter’s grandfather. So far, Neighbor says Carter has received 355 patches, a dozen fire department badges, four helmets and a variety of T-shirts, uniform shirts and caps. Eight foreign countries and three military bases have sent fire patches. In the storage room behind my office, I have a stockpile of patches yet to be sent to Carter. I hope to stretch out his excitement as long as possible. 

Carter is a boy whose spirits and academic performance are lifted, and he’s become a celebrity in his class. The teacher has turned Carter’s collection into a daily learning opportunity as he shows a new patch and tells where places—such as Michigan’s River Rouge Fire Department—are located. 

Many people have become a part of this delightful quest, and I thank you. One team member stands out as the Most Valuable Player on Team Carter—Augusta’s Cookie Serotta. If you could have only five friends, you would want Cookie and her husband, Abram, to be two on that treasured list. There is no limit to their selflessness. 

Abram jokes, “We can’t drive through a town without Cookie insisting we stop at a fire station to get another patch for Carter.” And they’ve made plenty of stops. I estimate the Serottas are responsible for at least 200 of Carter’s patches. When I suggested that all 50 states should join Team Carter, Cookie latched on to that challenge like a South Georgia snapping turtle. She wasn’t turning loose until it thundered. 

Take a look at this wonderful 7-year-old’s smile. If that doesn’t make you smile, forget tossing a pebble in the pond. You need to jump in instead.