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January 30, 2022 11:45 PM, EST

Young Fan of USPS Gets Own Mini-Mail Truck

Jacob Hayward, 7, drives a miniature mail truck

Jacob Hayward, 7, takes his miniature electric mail truck for a spin alongside his neighborhood's letter carrier, Van Singletary, in Laguna Niguel, Calif, on Jan. 24. (Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register via Tribune Content Agency)



Standing with his hands on his head, Jacob Hayward screamed at the top of his lungs, “Are you kidding me!” Then even louder, “Oh, my gosh, I love it!”

The 7-year-old reacted just as a mini-version of a U.S. Postal Service truck was lowered from the back of an empty USPS truck at the driveway of his Laguna Niguel neighborhood Jan. 24.

The instant the mini-vehicle was on the ground, Jacob jumped behind the wheel, revving its motor. After a brief drive at the end of his driveway, he stopped and scooted over, giving his 5-year-old sister, Ava, a chance to ride with him. The two toured along the sidewalk and then made a turn back to their house.

Many were there to cheer Jacob on – his parents, Jamie and Jared Hayward, his grandparents, aunts and uncles. But, most important to all gathered was the man who made the surprise happen — Van Singletary, a USPS mail carrier who has delivered to the 750-home community for 33 years.

On Dec. 20, Jamie Hayward was at a loss of how to celebrate her son’s seventh birthday Dec. 24. All he wanted, he had told her, was to tour the local post office. Nothing else.

And for Christmas, Jacob’s wish was plain envelopes and blank paper for his own postal operation.

So when she heard Singletary’s truck round the corner, she made her move.

“When I heard Van stop by our front door, I put him on the spot and gave him the background on Jacob,” Jamie Hayword said.

That background wasn’t easy to hear. On March 11, 2020, Jacob, then 5, was diagnosed with kidney cancer that spread to his lung. Doctors removed a kidney and 20% of his lung. He’s endured countless hours of chemotherapy and radiation and more than 50 transfusions. He recently had a bone marrow transplant and was in isolation at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County for five weeks.

Singletary’s response to the last-minute tour request? “Let’s make it happen!”

MORE PHOTOS: At OCRegister.com

Despite the huge workload at the post office, Singletary told Jamie Hayward he would do his best. After finishing his route that day, he got on the phone with his supervisor and told her the family’s story. The next day, Jacob, his sister, and their parents got the go-ahead for the local post office tour. Jacob loved seeing Van’s daily routine and the complex inner workings of the post office.

Despite the boy’s joy with spending a morning at the post office, the crew there were so struck by what he’s endured they thought they needed to do something more … something a bit more “over-the-top.”

So, on Jan. 24, the mini-truck was delivered. But USPS officials didn’t stop there. Jacob was named an honorary postal carrier and was given his own uniform. He also received a special envelope, known as a cache, with a custom stamp. A cache is used by the postal service to honor events such as the first day a stamp is issued.

In the end, all Jacob could say was, “This is so awesome!” He thanked the group, saying, “This is so sweet of you. I don’t know what else to say.”

Jacob said he hopes one day to become a mail carrier and “go around the world.” He already practices daily with a post office tent he has in his room where he sorts, stuffs and writes letters.

This is so awesome! This is so sweet of you. I don’t know what else to say.

7-year-old Jacob Hayward

While at CHOC in isolation, writing letters and notes was Jacob’s way of communicating with the outside world. He had his mailbox set up outside his hospital door.

Jacob’s doctors have now declared him cancer-free, Jamie Hayward said, noting her son is excited to go back to school.

On Jan. 24, Jacob couldn’t have been more amped.

“Oh, I’m feeling more than good,” he said, eyeing his USPS loot with his sister.

“I think it’s super cool,” Ava said to him. “You’re like a real postman.”

For Singletary, who lives in Aliso Viejo, Jacob’s obsession with his job is a huge compliment.

“In my whole career, I’ve never had someone tell me they want to be a mail carrier,” he said. “I feel proud. He actually appreciates what we do, and we are, in fact, essential.”

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