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Three-year-old preparing for open heart surgery gets big surprise by dozens of first responders

Posted at 2:51 PM, Dec 09, 2020

MOYOCK, N.C. – Three-year-old Vernon Smith is passionate about fire trucks and got a major surprise from dozens of first responders this weekend.

Crawford Township Volunteer Fire Department in North Carolina hosted a drive-by parade for the little boy who is about to have his third open heart surgery.

Vernon’s dad, Blake Smith, wanted to put a smile on his son’s face, so he asked if the local fire truck could drive by. Word got around about Vernon’s story, and dozens of firefighters, police and others wanted to be part of the surprise.

Other surrounding departments learned about the event and joined in: Moyock Volunteer Fire Department, the Lower Currituck Volunteer Fire Department, the South Camden Volunteer Fire Department, Currituck County Fire-EMS, the Currituck County Sheriff’s Department, the Camden County Sheriff’s Department, Pasquotank EMS, Lantz’s Towing, and North Carolina State Highway Patrol.

One of the assistant chiefs for the Crawford Township Volunteer Fire Department, Keith Storf, said the support they got from the neighboring departments was just phenomenal.

Vernon’s mom, Brittany Blackwelder, said when she was 21 weeks pregnant, they learned that Vernon had a heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome. It is a rare disease that causes the left side of his heart to not work properly, which causes the right side to work double-time.

Blackwelder said this will be his third reconstructive surgery, and said hopefully it will stabilize him. She said he can never play competitive sports and gets tired easily, but she said otherwise he should be able to live a normal life.

Storf said the little boy has gone through more than most adults. He said they were delighted to see him jumping up and down in the driveway during the surprise visit from the firefighters and first responders.

“They gave him so many gifts and presents, and it was all about him and he was in heaven and excited,” said Blackwelder.

“That was the best feeling in the world - to see his face,” said Blake Smith. “He was stoked.”

This story originally reported by Margaret Kavanagh on