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Nathaniel Parker didn’t know what to expect when he stepped off the elevator at the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office Thursday morning. But he was dressed for the part.
Nathaniel, wearing a child-size deputy uniform, was about to get his birthday wish. He wanted to celebrate his seventh birthday with Sheriff Calvin Woodard and his deputies.
“He’s just always said for the past four or five years that he wants to be a sheriff or in some type of law enforcement,” said his mother, Amanda Parker. “I think he’s going to remember this for the rest of his life.”
The sheriff’s office pulled out all the stops for Nathaniel. Not only did he receive a bag filled with goodies, but Woodard gave him a badge and a patch bearing the sheriff’s office insignia. Woodard also presented Nathaniel with a junior deputy certificate. His family, including his father, David Parker, and grandparents were also there Thursday to enjoy the moment.
“I think this is going to be your job one day,” his mother leaned in to tell Nathaniel, who beamed with excitement.
Several months ago, Deputy Dillon Pate met Nathaniel and his parents as he was on routine patrol in their Lucama neighborhood. The two formed a bond.
Nathaniel’s mother asked Pate if he and other deputies would celebrate her son’s birthday with them. Pate asked Woodard if they could have Nathaniel visit the office as a special treat. Woodard, who was thrilled, said he had never had anyone ask to celebrate a birthday at the office before.
“It’s extremely inspiring,” Woodard said. “I love to see young kids that age that are inspired and respect law enforcement. For him to come here with a uniform on ... it means a lot to all of us.”
Nathaniel not only mingled with deputies and the sheriff, but he also got to eat his birthday cake with them. The cake, created by Sweet Spot, was a black Dodge Charger adorned with “Wilson County Sheriff’s Office” on the back bumper.
“It feels good that a younger generation like that still wants to get into law enforcement,” Pate said. “Just to see him light up truly makes everything I do and everything we do worth it.”
A SPECIAL RIDE
Woodard also took Nathaniel for a ride in one of the patrol vehicles — a black Dodge Charger. Lights flashed and the siren blared. Woodard let Nathaniel hold the radio.
“Back up,” the child told the crowd of deputies circled around the vehicle before Woodard pulled out of the parking lot. Nathaniel later told his mom that was the best part about the day. He also toured the sheriff’s office and sat behind the sheriff’s desk.
Nathaniel said it was a day he would remember “forever.”
While Nathaniel is young and wants to be in law enforcement, he also knows there are dangers that come along with the profession. But his mother often reassures him that God will be his protection.
“If God wants you to do this, then that’s what we’re going to do,” she tells him. “And we’re going to pray that you will be safe. You just have to look at the good part — you’re helping people. And just pray that God takes care of you.”
Woodard said it was truly a blessing to have Nathaniel visit the office Thursday and to help make his “dream come true.”
When asked if it was the best birthday ever, Nathaniel nodded.
“Yes,” he said with a wide grin.