Palatine boy battling leukemia gets special treatment from police department
Eight-year-old Angel Becerra has been dealing with a lot this year, what with getting chemotherapy for leukemia and attending classes remotely to protect his weakened immune system.
Despite the challenges, Angel has remained cheerful and talks about wanting to become a police officer -- a resolve reinforced after he was treated to a one-of-a-kind day by the Palatine Police Department.
"The truth is, they surprised us, because I didn't think they would do so much," his mother, Araceli Barrera, said. "I thought they would just show him the patrol car. But they took us all to the police department and they showed him everything."
A third-grader at Virginia Lake Elementary School, Angel was diagnosed with leukemia in February.
The idea to organize a special day for him came from Palatine police counselor Melina Dominguez, who met Angel's mom and was moved to do something special for the boy upon hearing of his illness and his dream of joining law enforcement.
The two women first met at a local business while Dominguez was putting up flyers to promote an event for Spanish-speaking residents.
Then the two saw each other again at Partners for Our Communities, a community center where Dominguez has an office. Cmdr. David Brandwein, who is in charge of neighborhood-based policing, also happened to be there.
"(Angel's mom) kind of told the story to us, and we thought, maybe we can have him stop by the police station, take a tour, take a look around and meet some people," Brandwein said.
So Dominguez and Brandwein worked together to make it happen on Oct. 14.
The day started with the two going to Angel's house, where the family had fun taking pictures next to the squad car with its lights activated.
Then Angel, his little brother, Marcos, 4, and their mother were driven to the police station, where Angel got to wear a uniform shirt and was greeted by a line of police officers who clapped and cheered for him.
Angel got an in-depth tour of the station: He checked out roll call, the shooting range, the radio area and the report writing room, and he met Police Chief Dave Daigle and Deputy Chief Bill Nord, along with many other officers.
"The police garage seemed to be his favorite; he liked to see all the squad cars parked there," Brandwein said.
At the end of the tour, Angel was given a bag of toys left over from the Toys for Tots collection.
"He wasn't shy, that's for sure," Brandwein said. "He went up to people and said 'hello' and made himself right at home."
Angel was a bit more shy on the phone later with a reporter, preferring to leave the talking to his mother.
"He liked it so much," she said. "He was so happy. He told me it was the best day of his life."
Angel's doctor at Advocate Lutheran Hospital in Park Ridge says Angel is responding well to treatment, Barrera said. However, some days take unexpected turns, such as Friday, when the boy had to get two types of blood transfusions on top of chemotherapy.
Angel's father works nights in a factory, and his mother takes care of the children full time. Fortunately, Angel's treatment is fully covered by All Kids, the income-based children's health insurance provided by the state, she said.
"We are calm, we are staying motivated and trying to keep going with our normal life," she said. "This is a big illness, but the whole family is taking it like it's just any kind of illness."
Palatine police were happy to give Angel a day of joy and surprises.
"We got as much out of it as he did, just doing something nice for somebody, Brandwein said.