North Texas officer dressed as Iron Man flies to meet dying 7-year-old boy
DALLAS - With less than a 24 hour notice, a Fort Worth police officer booked a flight to a be true superhero to a dying boy in Orlando.
Officer Damon Cole met with Cole St. Clair in Orlando this past weekend. A day later the 7-year-old passed away from a highly aggressive brain tumor at the base of his brain.
"It is heartbreaking. Me and his dad had a long talk on the way to the airport. I can't even comprehend what a parent goes through. I've seen how big of an impact I've had with these families when I meet them. And the families reach out to me after the fact and that's the biggest honor I could ever get from them," Officer Cole said.
He learned about St. Clair after friends posted on Facebook about his desire to meet Iron Man. The family was actually supposed to go on a Make-a-Wish Disney Cruise later this month, but the trip was canceled because he was too sick to travel.
"I said I'm no Robert Downey Jr. but I'll definitely do what I can to make his dream come true," he said.
Officer Cole got special permission from the Fort Worth Police Department to take a day off work. He was going to pay for his own trip, but Southwest Airlines paid for it instead.
"It means a lot knowing that you can bring happiness to that family that's going through… I have an 8-year-old daughter myself, Savannah, and I can't even comprehend what a parent goes through when your child is terminally ill like that," he said.
The story has been getting national attention, but Officer Cole is no stranger to visiting sick children.
About a decade ago he started an organization called Heroes and Cops against Childhood Cancer. FOX 4 has featured stories of him visiting local children and secretly revealing a Superman logo under his uniform. Now he also uses his vacation days to travel around the country meeting sick kids.
He hopes his superhero costumes can help them forget about what they are dealing with for at least a few minutes.
"If I'm able to go out and make them happy and make them forget about that for that 8 ½ minutes that I was there, then that's why I do it," he said. "People love to call me the hero. In reality, I'm not the hero. It's these kids and these parents that support these kids that go through such hard times and get up every day and decide to keep fighting. Those are the heroes."
Cole is planning a 20-state trip over two weeks to meet even more children with terminal cancer. He recently got a tattoo of Superman busting through the word "cancer."