He’s only 3 and needs help even to climb into a fire truck, but that didn’t stop heart transplant survivor Tyren Johnson from becoming a honorary captain of the Detroit Fire Department’s Engine 54.
Tyren, who lives in the bankrupt city of Detroit, told Make-A-Wish Michigan that his wish was to become a firefighter and to meet a real, live Dalmation, a firefighter’s four-legged best friend.
Tyren accomplished both of those wishes and more Tuesday, starting when he and his mother, Tiesha Johnson, were picked up at the family’s home by a fire truck. Tyren greeted the fire truck dressed in his own uniform, with his name on the back, which the department had dropped off at his home the night before.
At Engine 54 headquarters, Tyren was greeted by the department’s Dalmatian mascot, a real Dalmation and family, friends, firefighters and school children all chanting his name.
“Initially, I think he was a little overwhelmed when he first got off the truck and the crowd greeted him,” said Sherri Collins, vice president of marketing and brand advancement for Make-A-Wish Michigan, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary of granting wishes this year.
“Then he was just smiling all day and excited,” she said. “He had great interaction with the firefighters, who were so into making his wish come true.”
The Engine 54 firefighters did everything from give Tyren a tour of their fire trucks and the fire station to letting him spray the fire hose and presenting him with his own firefighter badge and the title of Honorary Fire Chief.
The firefighters also introduced Tyren and his family, which included four generations, starting with his great-grandmother down to him, to a hallmark of any good fire station: a home-cooked meal.
“The firefighters made a meal of mashed potatoes and chicken at Tyren’s request and sat down and ate lunch with him and his family,” Collins said.
Tyren stayed at the station for about two hours before being escorted back home in the fire truck along with a stuffed Dalmatian he received as a souvenir of his incredible day, Make-A-Wish’s Collins said.
“That was just about the right time for a three-year-old,” she said. “He was pretty tired because it was a packed two hours and he took full advantage the whole time.”
Tyren was referred to the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Michigan chapter by his mother. Children between the ages of two-and-a-half and 18 who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition are eligible for the Make-A-Wish program.
The foundation has granted over 7,500 wishes for children in Michigan with life-threatening diseases in its 30-year history in the state, Collins said.