The Cardiff teenager with his own emergency service museum

By Anna Lewis
BBC Wales News

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18-year-old John receives badges and uniforms in the post every day from emergency services across the world

Ever since he could talk, John has been obsessed with fire engines.

Now the 18-year-old's house in Cardiff rivals an emergency services museum packed with thousands of helmets, badges and medals sent to him from across the world.

John, who has the muscle wasting condition Duchenne muscular dystrophy, is hoping to create a world record with his ever-growing collection of memorabilia.

Items in his collection include a fire helmet worn in 9/11 and a box of M&Ms signed by Barack Obama on his Nato visit to Cardiff and Newport.

Every day the postman brings more badges and medals from personnel from as far away as Afghanistan and New Zealand.

John's house is recognised as an official South Wales Fire and Rescue station - he is even taken to school in an adapted ambulance.

He was given the honorary title of South Wales Police Chief Constable for his birthday earlier this year.

"Things just come in every day and it makes John so happy," said his father Paul.

"I may get 20 messages a week asking how John is. The emergency services understand John's condition and how quickly he can worsen."

Image source, BBC
Image caption,
A mug presented to John by South Wales Police Chief Constable Peter Vaughan
Image source, BBC
Image caption,
John's blanket is taken on every trip
Image source, BBC
Image caption,
His collection includes British and Welsh police helmets and a personalised hand-made badge from Germany

About 2,500 people live with Duchenne muscular dystrophy in the UK. People with the rare condition usually only live until they are in their twenties and thirties.

But John's condition does not stop him from visiting emergency services across the country to meet his real life heroes.

Emergency services from across the world have been inspired by his story, with his dad sharing photos of John wearing his latest uniforms on Facebook.

His parents hope that John's collection will eventually be recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records.

"He's got a life-limiting condition and he might only have a few years left," said Paul.

"We really would like to help him get more recognition across the world and get his name in lights somewhere."

Paul, who used to drive a fire engine party bus, said his son's fascination with the emergency services began after joining his dad for a drive around Cardiff.

"John sat in his baby seat in the fire engine and he had the PA system open all the way from Newport Road to Canton singing Postman Pat," he said.

Image source, BBC

Paul has been overwhelmed by the global response to his son's passion since setting up the Facebook page in 2015.

The collection is now so large that the family hardly have room to store it.

In order to ensure all the items get seen, they use a shop-window style rotation system, and with thousands of items stored in boxes and cupboards, the family claim they could change their displays every day for a year without repeating themselves.

"He's always absolutely amazed, it can be anything - it can be a sticker it can be a pin badge, it can be a vintage fire helmet or a brand new one," said Paul.

"It's just like being part of the 999 or blue light family."

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