GA publisher wants to pay it forward

Dec 2, 2014

Boost helps 6-year-old with collection

By Stanley Schwartz

Managing Editor | Publishers’ Auxiliary

ATHENS, GA—It was a random act of kindness decades ago that led Dink NeSmith, president of Community Newspapers Inc., to want to help a 6-year-old, special needs boy in Massachusetts.

NeSmith told of a time in the ’50s when a neighbor, Aubrey Hires, handed the keys to his 1952 Buick to NeSmith’s father, allowing the family to make the 165-mile trek to NeSmith’s grandmother’s funeral during the bitter cold of late December. The NeSmith’s 1950 Dodge did not have a heater.

Recently, Hires’ son, Pete, contacted NeSmith about one of his grandsons, noting the boy’s fascination with fire department patches. Carter Sanborn was decorating his room with the fire department memorabilia. Pete asked NeSmith if there was anything the newspaperman could do to help out—and possibly send a few patches? Remembering Pete’s father’s kindness from 62 years before, NeSmith decided he would show the awesome power of community newspapers and spread the word to get Carter the patches he so dearly loved.

NeSmith penned a column “Would you like to help make a 6-year-old smile?” The Georgia Press Association joined the campaign, and soon other state press association’s joined in. Word spread quickly, and the patches and memorabilia came pouring in. To date, 23 states have joined the quest for patches.

“(Carter) waits by the mailbox every-day,” NeSmith said. “The postman asked him, ‘Who do you know?’ having delivered many packages to the young boy. ‘Mr. Ding,’ he answered.”

NeSmith is having all the patches and memorabilia sent to him in Georgia, where he repackages them and sends them in small parcels with hand-written notes for Carter.

“He’s in a special education class in the first grade,” NeSmith added. “They do show and tell every day, and he gets to show the patches he’s received. They’ve turned it into a geography lesson, putting a pin in the map to show where the patch came from, and a history lesson, too, on that town.”

In the first 45 days, NeSmith said he’s sent more than 250 patches to Carter, and he still has more than 100 yet to send. Recently, a retired New York firefighter sent Carter one of his old firefighter helmets and a NYFD t-shirt. Ball caps with fire department insignias have arrived, as well. When he first heard of Carter’s patch collection, the boy only had 10.

NeSmith wants to get the word out to more newspapers, so he contacted the National Newspaper Association and asked that it spread the word to its members.

“My goal is to reach all 50 states,” he said. The word is going international, as well. Patches from Japan have arrived, too.

NeSmith added that anyone who wants to help may join Team Carter and send the patches to him at P.O. Box 792, Athens, GA 30603.

“It’s like a pebble in the pond,” he said. A random act of kindness will keep spreading. Carter has an older brother, Christoper. NeSmith recently sent him a Georgia Bulldogs patch so he would not be left out. Even so, NeSmith said Christopher is extremely proud of his younger brother.

Contacted at his Rhode Island home, Pete said, “The overwhelming response to Team Carter has been unbelievable.

“The genesis for Carter’s love of fire memorabilia came from his other grandfather, Bob Sanborn, and his uncle, Matt Callahan. Bob is a retired Fitchburg, MA, firefighter, and Matt is a firefighter out of Boston’s Fort Dudley Station. They introduced him to public safety and their lives as firefighters. They gave him patches and t-shirts and took him to the stations to see the trucks and meet the firefighters—and since he was a toddler, all he wanted was ‘fire stuff.’ He especially got a kick out of the patches and badges.

“This summer after a trip to Maine and grabbing Carter a patch from the Oxford, ME, I reached out to Dink and some of our childhood neighbors—that we proudly call the ‘Younce Street Raiders’—to stop by their local fire department and ask them for a patch for my little buddy, Carter. Then Dink jumped in—engaged his Community Newspapers and friends—and Team Carter started rolling.

“Carter has some special needs. He has an underdeveloped immune system that requires weekly infusion treatments; in addition, he has a vestibular disorder and is suspected to operate somewhere on the higher end of the Autism spectrum disorders. He has some problems with socialization skills and did not participate in any team activities—until now.

“He now has a team—his team—Team Carter. It has really changed is life.

“Team Carter continues to make a very positive difference with all of us, his extended family, as we share the experience of his daily treasures. The smiles of a 6-, about-to-be-7-year-old, and the exuberant phone calls with Team Carter updates, tells it all.

“If you could just see his face—priceless,” said Pete.

In his column, NeSmith wrote: (Carter has) tagged me ‘Mr. Ding, the newspaper king.’ Knowing he’s smiling makes me smile, too.

“All children are special,” he added, “and special-needs children are extra special.”