Ailing boy's 9-11 contribution earns New York's Gratitude

by Bill Hoover, The Honolulu Advertiser

New York State trooper Dave Bast attaches a pin made by Rochan Pinho, left. Bast
delivered gifts from New York Gov. George Pataki, including a flag from Ground Zero.

Rochan Pinho, the 11-year-old boy with terminal brain and spinal cancer who sold hand-made patriotic buttons to collect $25,000 for the victims of the Sept. 11 attack, got a surprise gift yesterday from New York Gov. George Pataki: an American flag flown at Ground Zero.

The flag was presented to the boy at his home in Makakilo by New York State Trooper Dave Bast, who was part of the rescue effort on 9/11.

Bast read a letter to Rochan from Pataki "on behalf of all New Yorkers" that said in part, "We will never forget what you have done.... You will always have our gratitude and remain in our prayers."

Bast then gave the boy the folded flag, which was mounted inside a wood-and-glass box. Bast also gave Rochan several other smaller gifts, including a New York State baseball cap, coin and pen.

"Thank you," said the soft-spoken boy.

In return, Rochan gave Bast a copy of a CD movie he had made about 9/11.

The two became friends last year when Bast and his wife Amy were vacationing in Hawai'i and were moved by Rochan's fund-raising campaign.

Bast introduced himself to Rochan and, on his return to New York, handed the governor a check from the boy for more than $5,000.

Since that time, Rochan has made an appearance on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" and been featured in a book, United We Stand: Real Kid Heroes.

Rochan's money-raising efforts, which were conducted at area shopping malls with his father, Michael Pinho, were briefly curtailed after Child Protective Services received a complaint from a citizen who thought the child was being exploited.

Undaunted, Rochan vowed to continue his quest.

Child Protective Services relented, and Rochan eventually more than doubled his original goal of raising $10,000.

After the presentation, Michael Pinho said the flag probably meant more to his son than anything he could have been given.

Bast and his wife later treated Rochan to burgers and fries at a local Burger King. The two are vacationing in Waikiki until Monday, when they will return to New York. While here, they said they plan to spend more time visiting their friend.

"Cool," said Rochan with a smile.

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