Military and Police

Cops Respond to Kids with Cancer

One of the more poignant points in President Trump’s State of the Union (SOTU) address on February 5, 2019 emphasized young cancer patient Grace Eline and how we must do our darnedest as a nation to abate childhood cancer. That moment gripped me. When working the midnight-shift beat as a street cop in the early 2000s, I befriended a young boy afflicted with cancer. I met Sammy and his beloved family at a church in my jurisdiction, a church at which I started working extra-duty gigs when my regular duties had me scheduled off. That same church served as the premises for Sammy’s swearing-in ceremony and jubilation for an otherwise evidently pained young boy. He pushed through the day, though. Couldn’t keep him out of the SWAT vehicles and Bearcat; he was now entitled as our newest member.

It wasn’t long after the swearing-in ceremony that Sammy’s prognosis worsened. Sammy ascended to Heaven shortly after his 5th Birthday.

Although due to a different debilitating disease, Sammy’s mom and dad would also lose his slightly older sibling, Julia. To watch a family suffer the unspeakable casualties of two offspring at such young ages is numbing. It is also a call to saddle up with youngsters in more ways than perhaps we are currently invested. A side-job cops take up with pride and promptness.

Goodnight Lights

It is becoming more common among social media to get glimpses of children battling cancer and their local cops doing something in their interest. A growing trend is for a group of police officers to drive to the front areas of children’s hospitals and illuminate the red/blue lightbars, allowing the colored lights to flash through the night sky as sick children wave back from their hospital room windows or a common area lookout.

“Goodnight Lights” projected by twelve Dayton-area police and fire services agencies outside Dayton Children’s Hospital. (Credit: Dayton Daily News)

Called “Goodnight Lights,” Orlando, Florida police officers do it rather routinely, leaving hospital-bound boys and girls with a flash of fun before nite-nite. One dozen law enforcement and fire/rescue agencies in the Dayton, Ohio area went really big with the Goodnight Lights concept, creating quite a spectacle and unforgettable light-show for the kids to kindle after retiring to a gurney for another night.

Similarly, law enforcement agencies around the country hold special birthdays or swearing-in ceremonies for cancer-afflicted children whose ambitions are to be police officers someday. Here is a gander at one such swearing-in ceremony offered by the Fremont Police Department in Texas:

Congratulations to the newest member of the Freeport Police Department, Honorary Officer Abigail Rose Arias! She took an oath today to continue fighting the “bad guys” until she is cancer free! What a great day for the City of Freeport, and our Law Enforcement Family from all over this great state, who were in attendance! Also a special thanks to Rick Fernandez owner of Cop Stop Inc. for the wonderful FPD uniform and duty rig! #thinblueline Ruben Arias

Posted by Freeport Police Department on Thursday, February 7, 2019

Local cops from Angleton ISD PD and the Harris County Constable’s office were in attendance for the swearing-in event. Even the state police showed up for the little girl’s shindig. Tell me that young girl donning all official police regalia didn’t tug on your heartstrings. The extra-poignant moment came sliding in as well, when police Chief Ray Garivey officiating the momentous occasion choked backed some tears and paused when, pre-citing for Abigail Rose Arias, he got to the part  “I now and forever…promise…”

It definitely gets ya in the gut and stirs the soul to be in front of a youthful warrior who is pledging to fight for your life while she battles for her own. Her expression never faltered, either. The convictions in that little girl ought to bode well for the convictions of which she will be a catalyst after arresting “bad guys” who have rights to a trial.

Sobering is too mild a word for what we just watched. Congratulations to six-year-old Honorary Police Officer Abigail Rose Arias! Looking forward to your retirement shindig.

Talk about a humbling experience.

Freeport PD’s newly-sworn-in Honorary Police Officer Abigail Rose Arias wastes no time getting in the hot seat with a front-row view of the best show on Earth. (Photo courtesy: Freeport Police Department)

I’d say Officer Abigail is fighting on and fitting right in.

The fine folks at the Freeport, Texas police department offered the following sentiments on their website: “…today’s blessed event of the swearing-in ceremony of Honorary Freeport Police Officer Abigail Rose Arias. Abigail has been battling Wilms tumor cancer for the past two years and expressed her dream of wanting to be a police officer to our Chief Ray Garivey. Well, as you can see, dreams come true! Thank you to all the businesses, citizens, community leaders and First Responders who were present who took part in making Abigail’s dream come true. Continued prayers for Abigail and God Bless her and her family!”

Check out Heroes & Cops Against Childhood Cancer and the marvelous work Fort Worth, Texas police Officer Damon Cole is doing. Dressed in pretty-authentic-looking superhero garb, he travels around the country to meet children battling cancer. From hospital to hospital he traverses.

Similarly, Cops for Kids with Cancer is an organization, as the name implies, outfitted by active/retired cops who go above and beyond to fundraise and see to it that cancer-impacted kids and their families have fewer burdens and mitigated financial concerns. According to their website, the organization has thus far raised $3,341,000 for affected children/families.

“The organization was established in 2002 and now has an all-volunteer Board of Directors composed of more than 20 active and retired police officers and friends of law enforcement,” the Cops for Kids with Cancer site explained.

As their Chairman William Coulter put it: “We don’t build buildings. We don’t find a cure. We actually try to go directly right to the source and help families.” Here-here…and that is one element of what President Trump referred to during his SOTU address on Tuesday: Folks doing their darnedest to lessen the burdens, relieve some of the pains, and reach out to people who have been dealt a dark blow.

On January 7, 2019 an article was published which praised the wonderful work the organization is doing, this time with the generous help from the cops at the Gloucester Police Department whose collection of $10,000 was granted to the Cops for Kids with Cancer group who, in turn, divvied it up and gave $5,000 each to two families whose children are stricken with cancer. One of the two, a family in New Bedford, Massachusetts whose young child is battling cancer, received the unexpected $5,000 support to use “as they please.”

As New Bedford police Chief Joseph Cordiero stated, “I cannot express my gratitude enough for the caring generosity provided by the Cops for Kids with Cancer organization. Their commitment and dedication to children and their families who are battling cancer is in line with the fundamentals of policing, helping and caring. They are angels with badges.”

Overtly or covertly, all cops are.

Freeport’s finest permitted OpsLens use of the pictorial array showcasing Honorary Police Officer Abigail Rose Arias during her swearing-in gala, merely one of many of her shining moments throughout her life well beyond being a victor over cancer.

Given the emotional and fiscal impacts Officer Abigail’s family is enduring, a GoFundMe account named “Abigail Strong” has been launched in efforts to defray some of the economic enormity and to cater emotional coping.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Content Manager and Contributor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

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