Henry, 3, in hospice care
Member’s son inspires firefighters’ fundraiser
By Karen McLean
SPEEA publications editor
In a different world, Henry West would like- ly have become an engineer like his father, SPEEA member Nathan West, because of
the toddler’s interest in all things mechanical
(dead bolts and latches, for example).
Instead, Henry, a three year old, has been in hospice care. He was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid
Leukemia in March 2014, right after his father
accepted an offer at Boeing. After five months in
the hospital, his family held out hope that Henry
beat the leukemia with a stem-cell transplant.
Henry was healthy enough to enjoy a sense
of near normalcy for about a year. Then, he
relapsed, and they started aggressive treatment
last September. By November, his family heard
the worst news possible. Henry’s disease was, at
this point, terminal.
His story and a poster of Henry during a happier time will inspire 18 Boeing Fire Department
firefighters participating in the Scott Firefighter
Stair Climb (69 flights), March 6.
“He’s an amazing little boy who has touched the
lives of everyone he comes in contact with,” said
his aunt Sarah Mills, who is a tool designer and
SPEEA member at Boeing Everett.
That’s exactly what happened to Crystal
Nicholson, a Boeing firefighter, who was writing in her journal while waiting for a flight home
at the Orange County airport.
Henry and his family were there flying home
after a trip to Disneyland made possible by
When Henry “stole” her pen, she “traded” him
a little firefighter she carried to give to kids
(a squeeze toy from the Boeing Fire Department).
That sparked a conversation, because other
Trip to the station
family members also work at Boeing. Both of
Henry’s grandfathers, Stephen West, structural
design engineer, and Jamie Mills, a 777X wire
designer, are also SPEEA members.
Back home, Nicholson talked to her captain,
Greg Strome, about inviting Henry and his
family to see the station – a way to cheer up the
little boy. Strome not only agreed, he jumped
in to help and picked up some extra items to
decorate and make the event feel like a party. He
even bought a children’s firefighter costume and
personalized it for Henry. “I felt like I needed to
do more,” Strome said.
That’s what Marnie Fox thought when she met
the family at the station. Fox is the team captain
for the stair climb and was showing Henry’s family the team’s fundraising poster for the Leukemia
and Lymphoma Society. Boeing will match
employees’ contribution to the stair climb.
After the party, Fox asked the family if she could
dedicate the team’s climb to Henry. The photo
of him on the poster to hang in the stairwell
was taken during the Make-A-Wish trip to
“You look at the poster and think this is 20 or
30 minutes of my life in pain compared to what
they really suffer all the time,” Fox said.
Nicholson noted how much Henry had changed
from meeting him at the airport. “It was sad to
see how much of a toll the disease had taken on
him.” She’s one of the firefighters in the stair
climb to the top of Columbia Tower in Seattle.
Henry’s father, Nathan, a manufacturing engineer,
is especially grateful to the firefighters for the party
and the fundraiser to help fight diseases like this.
"I hope to live in a world someday where things
like Henry’s disease can be cured,” he said, “so other
people don’t have to go through the same thing.”
To learn more about the climb and donate to the
Boeing Fire Department team, search for Scott
Firefighter Stair Climb 2016. For the team, enter
Boeing Fire. You can submit a request for Boeing
matching donation through Total Access.
This photo of Henry West, 3, taken at Disneyland
during a Make-A-Wish trip, will inspire Boeing firefighters climbing the stairwell of Columbia Tower,
Seattle’s tallest building, March 6. The climb raises
money to find a cure for leukemia and lymphoma.
Henry’s father, grandfathers and aunt are all SPEEA
members at Boeing. Photo below shows firefighters at
a previous climb.