Toys for superheroes: Local family keeps son’s legacy alive with community help

The toys are donated to Carilion around Parker’s birthday each year

How the New River Valley community is helping to keep his legacy alive

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. – Parker Coleman is remembered by his friends and family as a sweet, unique soul.

”An old man stuck in a four-year-old’s body,” Parker’s mom Sarah Coleman said. “But he was always so happy, so calm, laid back.”

Parker was born with a condition that forced him to be in and out of hospitals his entire life.

“He had Leigh’s Syndrome, which is a mitochondrial disorder. So, there’s currently no treatment,” Coleman said.

Sarah said his love for superheroes and firefighters shone through, even in times of struggle. And The Christiansburg Fire Department stepped in to make a wish come true.

“They brought every single fire truck to our house in our neighborhood and surprised Parker,” Coleman said. “They made him an honorary fireman and gave him his own fire suit.”

The fire department continues to honor Parker after his passing in 2017.

“All the guys got together and decided that that would be a good way to honor him, to make him an honorary member of our fire department, and that same year he was voted fireman of the year by his peers here,” Potsie Smith with the Christiansburg Fire Department said.

“That was very special,” Coleman said. “A big surprise to us, very emotional night, but yeah just unbelievable.”

Sarah and her husband Bryan wanted to expand his legacy, so they created a toy drive in his honor.

“Parker loved superheroes, and the kids in the hospital are superheroes, so we thought we’d collect superhero toys,” Coleman said.

What started as 300 superhero toys expanded to over 1000 toys of all kinds five years later, and the Christiansburg Fire Department has been there every step of the way.

“Since they became involved, it’s just taken it to the next level,” Coleman said. “I know they dropped the toys off at our house and I was just going through the bags, and it was like a bottomless bag. Like I could not believe how many toys were in those bags.”

The toys are donated to Carilion every year in August, which is close to Parker’s birthday.

“When you’re in the hospital, it’s not fun to be here, right, so we have to find ways to make kids and families feel a little bit more comfortable and a lot of that is bringing in elements of home, elements of fun and joy,” Carilion Child Life Specialist Sarah Kress said.

The Colemans continue to cherish their relationship with the fire department years after Parker’s passing.

“We’re incredibly thankful that they’re just as committed to keeping his memory alive as we are,” Coleman said.

This year, the Christiansburg Volunteer Fire Department said Roanoke Memorial patients will receive over 1000 toys.


About the Author:

Abbie is a multimedia journalist finishing up her senior year at Virginia Tech. You can watch her report on weekday evenings.