Nolan Berthelette had a big heart.

He befriended children at school who were having a hard time. As a 3-year-old, he stood in front of a bush that a landscaping crew was going to cut down until they gave up. Since the age of 7, he had donated money to help save polar bears.

In the two weeks since the sudden death of their 14-year-old son, Ray Berthelette, Nolan’s father, said that he, his wife, Amy, and Nolan’s younger brother, Nason, have learned a lot about their son, much of it involving that heart.

And now the heart is helping someone else.

The Pittsfield family donated Nolan’s organs, which have helped save four lives, Berthelette said, including a woman who received Nolan’s heart.

“The woman that received his heart, she’s in her 20s and is in the military and was hooked up to life support with days to live when she got his heart,” he said. “What we’re being told is she’s doing phenomenal.”

He said the pain of Nolan’s death is difficult for him, Nolan’s mother, Nason and Nolan’s older siblings, sisters Heather and Meri and brother Nikolas, to deal with, but support from the town and knowledge his organs are helping others temper it.

“We started getting stories that we had never heard before about Nolan,” Berthelette said. “We wanted to hear stories and people started sending them. One woman wrote us and said how her son despised going to school until Nolan went over to him, gave him a high-five and talked to him.

“The boy went home so happy and said, ‘Mom, I made a friend today.’ He looked forward to going to school. He cared for everybody. He stuck up for everyone.”

Nolan died of a brain aneurysm July 19. The news of his death quickly swept the town of 4,200, as friends and classmates decorated Pittsfield in his favorite color – orange – and organized a candlelight vigil two nights later, where more than 300 people mourned together.

The family has received donations through jars at stores in Pittsfield and online at a fundraising website. The money will go toward medical and funeral expenses, according to the site.

They’ve received home-cooked meals every night since Nolan died. Gov. Paul LePage wrote a condolence letter to the family. The Maine Warden Service named Nolan, who often went whitewater rafting with his father, an honorary whitewater guide, a goal he hoped to reach when he turned 18.

The Maine Central Institute football team, which Nolan was training to be a member of in his upcoming freshman year, will wear the number 13 on their helmets in memory of Nolan.

“The community support we’ve received and the rallying people have done because of our son, it’s touching,” Berthelette said. “I just want to thank everybody.”

He said he and his wife “have a lot of the same feelings that we’re dealing with differently.”

“She’s having a hard time getting out, talking with people, sleeping. I still, of course, miss him and I’m still in shock, but I need to get out there and talk to people and continue his work.”

That work includes donating money as Nolan had since he was 7 years old to help save polar bears, his father said.

In fact, Nolan had been an activist since he was 3, his father said. When the family lived in an apartment complex in Massachusetts, a landscaping company was going to cut down a bush, but Nolan stood his ground in front of it until they left.

“He didn’t want them to cut it down because it was a living thing,” Berthelette said. “He had so much drive and determination. He was worried he didn’t have enough time each day to do what he wanted, so before he’d go to bed he’d write a list of what to do the next day.”

While family members will never heal completely from the loss of Nolan, they continue to take solace in the lives that the boy touched in his 14 years.

“He amazes us,” Berthelette said. “He still does. Every single day.”

Jesse Scardina can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

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Twitter: jessescardina