Christmas came early on the campus of Liberty University Tuesday night, as a Christmas tree was lit atop Liberty Mountain above the monogram, fulfilling the wish of 5-year-old Nathan Norman, a boy from the community who is fighting brain and spinal cord cancer.
Nathan’s parents, both Liberty alumni, Dawn (’08) and Robert (’07), asked him after he came home from the hospital in September what would help make the treatments a little easier. His request was simple — celebrate Christmas.
Immediately the Norman family decked the halls of their home, setting up the Christmas tree, hanging lights, and even spreading the cheer to their neighbors, who decorated too. Their story has been featured on local news and on ABC World News. Nathan has received Christmas cards from all 50 states and more than 15 countries.
Liberty University decided to join in bringing him Christmas joy and on Tuesday, as night swept over the Blue Ridge Mountains, Nathan flipped a special switch made for the occasion, electrifying the tree that has become part of Liberty tradition for the past few years and is visible to much of the Lynchburg area.
“Nathan was really excited to turn around and watch the tree light up, and now, for the rest of the season as people drive through Lynchburg, everybody can know that Nathan got Christmas started for us this year,” said Neal Askew, Liberty’s executive vice president. “We are proud of that and proud to be a part of helping their family.”
WSET ABC 13, who aired the first news story about Nathan, covered the event.
After the tree lighting, Dale Layer, Flames basketball head coach, prayed over the Norman family in the gazebo.
In the spirit of the Christmas holiday, Nathan was presented gifts by athletes and coaches from Liberty athletics teams. He received a basketball, hockey stick, and football signed by players. Sparky, Liberty’s mascot, assumed the role of Santa Claus, giving Nathan gifts from Liberty’s Barnes & Noble Bookstore.
“This story has touched so many people, it’s crazy — more than I could have probably even imagined,” Robert Norman said.
He added that he wants people to hear Nathan’s story and understand the power of the Gospel and the reason for celebrating Christmas is the hope Jesus brings to their lives.
Joining in the celebration were Nathan’s siblings, Sarah, 10; Matthew, 7; and Tabitha, 2, and the Sears family, close friends and neighbors.
“To see other people that don’t know Nathan identify with what it’s about and what he’s doing has been amazing,” Scott Sears said. “All of this started with a conversation with his mom. They put their lights up and we put our lights up and it has snowballed to this. The whole community has embraced it.”