CAMDEN COUNTY, N.J. — A group of police officers in New Jersey made a young cancer patient’s day on Monday when they gifted him with his own patrol car, and a stuffed K-9 to ride along with him.
Ben Graham, 3, of Elmer, is an avid fan of law enforcement officers, particularly police dogs, according to the Courier-Post. Ben is also a fighter, having survived neuroblastoma at the age of 18 months.
The cancer, which the American Cancer Society says is found most often in infants and very young children, returned in June, requiring multiple cycles of immunotherapy treatment, as well as a stem cell transplant and radiation, the Courier-Post reported.
He is also undergoing experimental treatments at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Ben's mother, Amanda Graham, took the boy and his siblings to a Touch a Truck event a few weeks ago, where Ben met several Camden County police officers and got to see their vehicles and equipment up close. He was fascinated with the gear and the dogs, Camden County police Officer Allen Williams told the Courier-Post.
The officers, in turn, were touched by Ben’s story.
"We all have kids and families," Williams said. "This type of illness touches us all, and we wanted to do something genuine and sincere to make him feel a little better."
Williams and his fellow K-9 officers pooled their money and bought Ben a kid-sized truck that they customized to look like a Camden County K-9 patrol unit, complete with a sticker that warns passersby, “Caution: Police dog.”
The police dog is a stuffed German Shepherd.
The police department took to Facebook to share photos of the officers' visit, which delighted not only Ben, but his siblings as well. The children got to watch a demonstration showing how a K-9 captures a suspect, and Ben chased the officers around the yard with his stuffed dog, barking at them, the Courier-Post said.
"He was totally surprised and had so much fun with our officers, giving all of them hugs when it was time to go," the department's Facebook post read.
Graham posted a heartfelt thank you on her own page.
“We can’t thank you enough,” she wrote. “Ben had such a good time, we didn’t expect this at all. Thank you for making our boy smile. (You’re) part of our family now!”
A fundraising page designed to help Ben and his family tells his story in detail, from his initial diagnosis in October 2015 to his most recent treatments. The Grahams first learned of the cancer after a visit to a urologist.
Ben underwent surgery to remove a Stage I, low-risk tumor the size of a golf ball from his adrenal gland, at which time doctors were optimistic about the outcome. Post-op scans conducted in January 2016 showed, however, that the tumor had returned.
This time, it was wrapped around both kidneys and a major artery, the fundraising page said. Doctors diagnosed Ben with Stage IV high-risk cancer.
Chemotherapy shrunk the tumor enough to allow surgeons to remove about 97 percent of the cancer. Doctors also performed a bone marrow transplant and put Ben through several rounds of immunotherapy to keep the cancer from returning once again.
The Grahams were preparing an “end-of-treatment party” for Ben in June when more scans showed the toddler had relapsed, the page said.
"Unfortunately, there is no cure for relapsed neuroblastoma. But Ben and his family aren't quitters," the family's post read. "They are currently awaiting a new clinical trial. Ben will be one of three children to receive an experimental treatment in pill form, which has shown success in adult lung cancer patients. He will start this trial around Labor Day."
Cox Media Group