Toddler suffering from cancer becomes Hayward firefighter for a day

In Hayward, Saturday, a parade of fire trucks made its way through slowly. It lasted just minutes, but in that short time, uplifting the community, and its newest firefighter for a day.

"Our job is to serve the citizens of Hayward, in every way," said Hayward firefighter Justin Silva, organizer of the event.

Around 8 a.m., four-year-old Henry Carpenter, a/k/a "Hank the Tank," was pinned as a member of the fire department for the day. He then answered the call of service; firefighters dispatched him to a small hut at their training facility, to battle a burning structure, with the assistance of first responders.

"They really went above and beyond and made him feel very special. And our whole family, very special and loved," said Allie Carpenter, the boy’s mother.

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This outpouring of support stems from a Goliath of the problem confronting Hank. He has spent half his life battling cancer.

The health scare started as a lump and grew into Stage-4 neuroblastoma, which has spread through his body.

"It's sad how usually kids can get this kind of stuff. It just makes me upset that it happens," said 10-year-old Liam McKaigg, who attends Stonebrae Elementary School with Hank.

Family trips twice a month to Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York for treatment are holding cancer at bay.

But fulfilling the boy's love and passion for firefighting is treating his soul.

"His cancer is at bay. So we're just taking it day by day. Just enjoying being together as a family," said Carpenter.

While Saturday's activities benefited the community, those who came out to watch said they benefited too. It was a chance for the community to rally around Hank, and be together.

"I think it does something for all of us. We are really excited to come together. Especially with the pandemic. So this is a rare occasion where we can come together and root on our families, and we're really happy to see him today," said Stonebrae Principal Lauren Mattias. 

Added parent Amy Brown, "Hopefully, he feels super strong today and sees everybody cheering, and feels the love from the community and Stonebrae (elementary) school."

The 100 or so gathered here are hopeful, this short ride in a fire engine will pay long dividends down Hank's road of life.

"Just try to bring a little positivity into a really tough situation," said Silva.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter @JesseKTVU and Instagram @jessegontv