DALLAS (AP) — When his 4-year-old son was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Dameon Burcie's fellow Dallas firefighters decided to do something to cheer up the family. They organized photos with the boy's name and a message.
Other departments caught on. The photos multiplied and were posted on a Facebook page devoted to little Dyrk Burcie. One had Dyrk's name spelled in fire, another in uniforms.
For the family, it was one small act of kindness that snowballed, brightening some very dark days.
"In a horrible situation like this, it's nice to see that it is bringing people together, bringing communities closer together," Dameon Burcie said in a recent interview. "At least something positive can come out of it."
Dyrk Burcie was just 3 when his parents felt a mass on his abdomen. Doctors diagnosed Dyrk with pediatric liver cancer and later found the cancer had spread to both of his lungs. Dyrk underwent nine rounds of chemotherapy and a liver transplant, but nothing worked.
In April, Dameon Burcie posted on Facebook that the family had decided to stop intensive treatment and make the most of the time Dyrk has left.
"We always said we will know when it was time to stop and just enjoy him," Burcie wrote. "That time has come much earlier than I expected or wanted."
After the Burcies made their decision, family friend and fellow Dallas firefighter Ronnie Roe talked to other firefighters about a way to help.
"My idea was, just take a picture of your group with a short, simple message to Dyrk. And that's all I said," he said. "And then it morphed into 'Dyrkstrong' ... they're getting really creative with some of their messages."
Firehouses across the Dallas area sent in photos posing with signs emblazoned with Dyrk's name. As Dyrk's story attracted local television coverage, the stream of photos turned into a flood.
In College Station, near Houston, firefighters posed in front of two trucks with their cabs tilted forward. Someone digitally added two logos from the "Transformers" action figures — Dyrk's favorite.
"All you got to do a lot of times is just ask," said College Station firefighter Paul Gunnels. "And sometimes they do it on their own when you need it. They don't necessarily have to be told."
In Longview, about 125 miles east of Dallas, a crew of firefighters used hay to spell out the letters "DYRK." They added a mixture of oil and liquid detergent and set it on fire. A firefighter climbed a nearly 100-foot-tall ladder to take a picture. Others have gotten involved — youth sports teams, families and active-duty soldiers.
"We're not looking for any notoriety or anything," said Cory Crowell, a Longview firefighter who helped organize the picture. "We truly, truly wish the best for this little boy and hopes he beats his cancer. That's the main objective."
Dameon Burcie said his son had seen a lot of the photos posted online and had a few favorites, including the "Transformers" trucks.
Burcie said he plans to eventually download all the photos, which he said had brought a welcome smile to tough times.
"They're going to be something that we're going to treasure and be able to look at for the rest of our lives," Burcie said.