Birmingham firefighter starts new business to connect with children, honor late mother

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A firefighter with the Birmingham Fire Department has started a new business with the hope of connecting with more kids in the community, a mission that was partly inspired by his late mother.

James Patton’s new business, Gamez on Fire, is a mobile gaming trailer that started a few months ago. It has just about every gaming system, including the new PlayStation. Up to 24 people can play in the trailer at once.

Patton said that as a firefighter, he often sees kids on their worst days. Through Gamez on Fire, Patton has a chance to see them at their best.

“Being able to see kids, and see kids at their best, it was like ‘This is it,'” Patton said. “I just have fun with them.”

Patton said he wants to use Gamez on Fire to talk with young people in the community about the work he does, all while having interactions outside of moments of crisis.

Patton and his mother, Nadine.

Patton’s family also had a role in Gamez on Fire. As he was launching this business, Patton’s mother, Nadine Willis Patton, contracted COVID-19.

“My mom was everything,” he said. “She was literally my best friend.”

After getting the call that she had less than 24 hours left to live, Patton and his sister went to the hospital to spend one last time with their mother.

“That was probably the roughest point of my life, the lowest point of my life,” he said.

After his mother’s death, Patton was ready to give up on his business. He even considered returning the trailer.

“How is she not going to be here to see it,” he said. “What’s the use now?”

Patton’s mother worked at Carver High School for 22 years, where she worked as a counselor, project manager, and dance coach. After processing her death, Patton said he remembered why he wanted to start a business in the first place.

“My mother,” Patton said. “Honestly. She wants all of this. She’s smiling down at all of this, everything we’re doing, I think about her every day.”

Patton said Gamez on Fire is a way to connect with kids in the Birmingham area, just like his mother did. He is continuing to look for ways to give back to his community and he’ll use his gaming truck to do it. A portion of the proceeds from the events he holds will go towards a scholarship.

Gamez on Fire will also be coordinating a scholarship fundraiser on April 10.

The scholarship will be given to a Carver High School student to help ease the financial burden after graduation. The scholarship recipient will be announced on April 22, which also marks Nadine Patton’s birthday.

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