An 11-year-old girl from Marblehead, battling a rare brain tumor, was treated to a special ride around town courtesy of the local police department this week.
Sophia Smith got picked up in the chief’s cruiser and enjoyed a police-escorted tour Tuesday morning that ultimately ended at Seaside Park, where the sixth-grader and her family were presented with a $5,000 check from the Cops for Kids with Cancer program.
Residents were encouraged to display banners and come outside and wave to the motorcade as it made its way through town.
“I think it was a tremendous show of support for the family as they go through this battle with cancer,” Marblehead police Chief Robert Picariello said.
Marblehead police organized the “Arms Around Sophia” event in honor of Sophia, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in March of this year.
The motorcade included several police motorcycles and cruisers. Another 15 to 20 police vehicles were waiting at the park for her arrival, Picariello said.
“She saw a lot of cops,” he quipped.
Participants included police from Danvers, Peabody, Amesbury, Manchester, Swampscott, Salem, the Middlesex Sheriff’s Department, Gloucester, North Reading, Hamilton, Reading, Beverly, Georgetown, Nahant, Newburyport, and Ipswich.
Picariello said it the first time that the police department has held a procession like that, and by all accounts it was a success.
“I think Sophia felt special yesterday,” Picariello said. “She had a good time. She was smiling the whole time that I saw her.”
Sophia’s mother, Jennifer, expressed similar sentiments.
“It was amazing,” she said. “Police from neighboring towns came out. . . . Businesses, the charter school, along the way held signs and waved. And there were more police cars lining Atlantic Ave. with tons of people at Seaside Park to greet us. [It was] so great.”
The type of brain tumor that Sophia has — known as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma — is aggressive and difficult to treat.
“It is a type of cancer, but usually it’s referred to as a rare brain tumor,” Jennifer Smith said. It “affects mainly kids, and it’s inoperable.”
Approximately 300 children in the United States are diagnosed with DIPGs each year, according to the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center website.
Smith said that in June they traveled to the Harley Street Clinic in London, where her daughter had a 10-hour surgery to install four thin catheters that go directly to the tumor. They return every month so she can receive treatment.
“Unfortunately this specific treatment is not yet available in the US, and insurance will not cover it,” she said.
After the event, Jennifer Smith turned to Facebook and publicly thanked the Marblehead Police Department and neighboring police departments for making the procession happen.
“Thanks to the Marblehead Police Department and all the surrounding Police Departments for an amazing procession today,” she wrote. “The turnout was incredible and once again the town has put their arms around my strong daughter. Special thanks to Chief Bob Picariello and Captain Matt Freeman for putting this all together and getting us a $5,000 grant from Cops for kids with cancer. We truly appreciate it!!”
Emily Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.