OKLAHOMA CITY - An Oklahoma City teenager, who has spent most of his life in hospitals, learned to pass time by making friendship bracelets, and Fletcher Burns has made 5,000 of them just since January!
"It's been a blessing to see him come out of his shell," Fletcher's mom Denise said.
"He was diagnosed with Epidermal Nevus Syndrome when he was five weeks old. A nevus is like a mole or a birthmark, but he also has, in addition to, Vitamin D-deficient rickets, and he has heart and lung issues. He's ventilator-dependent and has been since he was one. He had open heart surgery when he was ten months old," Denise said.
Now 14, Fletcher's most recent hospital stay is at Children's Center Rehabilitation Hospital in Bethany, where Fletcher has spent more than half his life.
He gives every staff member a smile and one of his friendship bracelets made of beads and pipe cleaner.
But Fletcher doesn't want the hospital staff to wear them on their wrists, "On their badge," he said. "Wash their hands."
"Because they wash their hands so much, so he doesn't want them to get germs on them," Denise said.
Denise keeps the very first bracelet that Fletcher ever made while in occupational therapy, while the other 5,000 have gone to international mission trips, students, non-profits, churches, athletes, and complete strangers - completely free of charge.
"He'll make 50 or 100 of them a day," Denise said. "I mean, he's doesn't know a stranger, and it can be kind of awkward for me because I'm putting bracelets on a stranger because he'll say, 'You help her,' so I'll have to put the bracelet on a perfect stranger."
Denise's friend, Beverly Jones, was so touched by Fletcher's bracelets, that she wanted to give some happiness to him, which he so generously pours out on others.
"He loves to make people happy. He wants to show love to other people, and kindness, and he doesn't do it for anything in return," Beverly said.
Beverly nominated Fletcher for a $400 Pay It 4Ward award from First Fidelity Bank's Michelle Jensen.
"On behalf of First Fidelity Bank, we are so excited to be able to give this money to Fletcher to pay it forward. He's such a remarkable young man and his story is such an inspiration," Michelle said.
When Beverly surprised Fletcher with the $400, he made sure everyone in the room had a bracelet.
"Do you need a bracelet?" Fletcher asked our News 4 photographer Mark Paris. "I absolutely do!" Mark replied.
"$400 will buy you a lot of beads!" Beverly told Fletcher.
"That's for you, can you say thank you?" Denise asked Fletcher.
"Thank you," he said. "You're welcome, sweetheart," Beverly smiled.
Denise says grateful bracelet recipients have sent thousands of beads, which keeps Fletcher busy during his hospital stays - this is his seventh stay in the past 18 months.
But Fletcher will be heading back home again in a couple of weeks.
"Peace out!" Fletcher smiled.
Fletcher's a normal kid who was dealt a different hand in life - but the genuine kindness that he deals out is unique and beautiful, just like his bracelets.
Pay It 4Ward is sponsored by First Fidelity Bank.