A Mississippi boy becomes an Honorary Alaska State Trooper for a day!
A bright-eyed 11-year-old boy from Mississippi got to venture into Alaskan wilderness to meet his favorite state troopers this past week. But this isn’t just any boy, and these aren’t just any officers. Blaine Breaux has been battling cancer since he was 10. His cancer is acute lymphoblastic leukemia, to be exact, which affects blood cells and the immune system. ALL is a cancer of the bone marrow and blood, and progresses rapidly without treatment, according to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. It starts in a stem cell in bone marrow, but can spread to other areas, such as the central nervous system and lymph nodes. As a result, the number of healthy blood cells in someone with ALL is often much lower than normal and necessary. “I ain't never been hit so hard in my life when they told me Blaine had cancer,” said Blaine’s dad, Perry Breaux. “It really tears you up.” Without good red cells, white cells and platelets, people with ALL often suffer from anemia, which can cause fatigue, shortness of breath and easy bruising; neutropenia, which makes it so the person’s immune system can’t guard him or her against infection; and thrombocytopenia, which can cause bleeding and bruising without apparent cause, according to LLS. “It's hard; things are different,” said Kim Breaux, Blaine’s mom. “We thought he just had the flu. Even the doctors told us, ‘You're gonna have a new way of living, and when your normal life comes back, when all this is done, you're gonna have to get used to living normal again.’” Blaine has had more than 20 spinal taps since being diagnosed with ALL. He does some form of chemotherapy every day, and had a blood transfusion shortly before traveling cross-country to the Last Frontier. He can’t eat raw foods and has to take methotrexate pills that knock him out for days at a time. Almost 25,000 are expected to die from leukemia in 2016 alone. But thankfully, Blaine is one of many children who have made it to what’s called the “maintenance” stage of ALL. It isn’t total remission, his mom said, but it means there’s a good chance Blaine will totally make it out of the woods, as it were. “When they came and told us, I was in shock, but I prepared myself,” Blaine’s mom Kim said. “I just had a feeling, for some reason. And then my thoughts were [around] having to go to a funeral home and make arrangements. It's crazy.” While treatments have pulled Blaine out of traditional schooling and put him in a hospital more often than not, thanks to the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the Alaska State Troopers, Blaine got to forget about the cancer he’s courageously battling - at least, for a day. “He's not thinking about that right now,” Perry said. “He's thinking about how beautiful this is. And that's wonderful.” Because of an implanted port in his upper left chest for delivering cancer-fighting drugs, Blaine can’t play contact sports or do anything too physical. So these days, he’s playing a lot of golf. But he’s always been an avid hunter and wilderness explorer, and has always wanted to meet the everyday heroes from his favorite television show: Alaska State Troopers. “For someone in his condition, fighting the fight he's fighting, to want to spend the day with us, is pretty amazing,” said Sgt. Doug Massie of the Mat-Su West Post for Wildlife Troopers. “I'm honored.” So after a weekend of treatments, Blaine, along with his mom, dad, two brothers and grandmother, hopped on a flight to Alaska where Blaine’s wish was granted. And then some. “I can't explain it,” Blaine’s dad said. “It's just wonderful seeing Blaine light up.” Blaine met a full squad of troopers before becoming an honorary state trooper for the day. He hopped in a squad car and spent the morning reviewing fishing licenses and boating permits on the Susitna River. That was before checking in at a trooper cabin in the woods for lunch and taking an hour-long helicopter ride over Deshka Landing. “There aren't enough words to explain how exciting it is for him,” Blaine’s mom said. “It's just overwhelming.” And as it turns out, Blaine was inspiring his heroes. “A person that's fighting the battles he's fighting, fighting the illness he's fighting,” Massie said. “It totally puts life into perspective. What's important, what's not important. Those little things you kind of overlook? You pay a little more attention.”
A Washington State Trooper helps a Homeless Family
Murray Duncan and his fiancée, Alyssa Dunn, thought they had their lives planned out when they moved here from Delaware last month. Dunn had a job lined up as a gate agent at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and the couple had enough savings to live with their 6-month-old son in a hotel for about a month while they looked for an apartment. But after the transmission on their Hyundai Elantra blew out during the drive to Washington State, the couple found themselves broke and weeks away from Dunn’s first paycheck. After finding a Redmond church that offered overnight shelter, they decided to make an Interstate 5 rest area their home during the day, getting by on a patchwork of other social services. It’s not uncommon for the region’s homeless residents to spend their days at highway rest areas, although state law limits visits to eight hours at a time, according to the Washington State Patrol. Trooper Stephanie Bjorkman was tracking down witnesses for an investigation at the Sea Tac Rest Area along the freeway near Federal Way late last month when she encountered Duncan, 23, and his baby — new faces among the regulars. She decided to help the young family. “I see people who are in this permanent limbo phase because they’re not doing what they should be doing,” Bjorkman said. “(Duncan and Dunn) are in this limbo, but they’re trying to get out.” Bjorkman has helped the family get food, water and baby formula. She’s also provided Duncan and Dunn, 24, with information about free activity programs for kids so they can get the boy out of the car. Various churches and the Salvation Army provide the family with dinner Monday through Friday, but they have to find their own food on the weekends, so Bjorkman has been giving them restaurant gift cards. Bjorkman said once the family has proof of income with Dunn’s first paycheck in the coming days, they will be eligible for more state resources. But until then, Bjorkman has been taking it upon herself to help the family get food, water and baby formula. “Words can’t even explain,” Duncan said of Bjorkman’s help. “She’s definitely looked out for us, and we can’t thank her enough.” Troopers are regularly called out to direct homeless people away from rest areas, though the homeless often return later. Bjorkman said she sees both sides of the issue. “DOT wants their rules enforced, but oftentimes (homeless people) have nowhere else to go,” she said. For now, Bjorkman continues to check in on the family, providing help when she can. Dunn said she and Duncan were recently accepted into the state’s Diversion Cash Assistance program, which will provide them with temporary aid for housing once they sign an apartment lease. The couple recently found an apartment, and they’re waiting to hear when they can move in. Duncan plans to start working once they get established. In February, King County Executive Dow Constantine and other regional leaders and homeless advocates announced $17 million in county funding for new, affordable housing units and emergency shelter in the county, some of it aimed specifically at South and East King County. A count last year put Washington’s homeless population at 19,418, with King County accounting for 52percent of the total. Dunn said she wishes there were more transitional homes in the area for people who already have jobs. She described one shelter the family stayed in as being infested with bedbugs. Bjorkman said providing the family with assistance has been a great counterbalance to the type of work she usually deals with as a trooper. “You’re never sure how they’re going to react,” Bjorkman said. “From what they’ve told me and what I’ve seen, I feel like it’s going to help them move out of this period.” She said troopers often help the homeless in smaller ways, recalling a former colleague whose wife would make extra sandwiches for him to give to those in need. “That’s sort of the way a lot of these troopers are,” said State Patrol spokesman Chris Webb. “They do these things and you don’t find out about it — sometimes until six months later.”
Local Elementary School gets help from Connecticut State Police to teach the students about science in the community
By the end of Deans Mill School’s annual Science and Tech Day last Thursday, young Josie Hatch could dust for fingerprints like a pro. “You put your hand on paper and then you swirl around the brush, and then you find a fingerprint,” Josie, a 6-year-old kindergarten student, said. “It was pretty neat.” Josie and her classmates learned a little about DNA, the tools investigators use at crime scenes and the inside of a police vehicle from the Connecticut State Police on a day educators at Deans Mill set aside every year for students to learn how science and technology is used in the real world. “We teach them how science helps police work,” Detective Karen O’Connor, a polygraph examiner with the State Police, said. “We look at fingerprint patterns and the technology in police cars. Technology has completely enhanced everything.” Students from kindergarten through Grade 4 received lessons on everything late last week — from robotics to plankton and its place in the food chain to how liquid nitrogen freezes objects. Local businesses like Pfizer and teacher and student groups from Stonington High and Mystic Middle also presented. “A lot of the parents of our kids help out, too,” said Kristen Morehouse, a kindergarten teacher. “That way, students find out about what adults in the community do.” Members of Mystic Middle School’s SeaPerch team, who advanced to a second consecutive national competition this spring, talked to the younger students about the afterschool program. In SeaPerch, students design and build ROVs, underwater remotely operated vehicles. “We’re trying to teach them about designing ROVS so when they go on to college maybe they can find a job,” Mystic Middle sixth-grader Baxter Menzies said, standing outside a large tank filled with water and various ROVs. “You learn about engineering, and it’s fun, too. “Not a lot of people can build robots like this. At our school, it’s something you can do.” Elsewhere in Deans Mill’s building, Stonington High students helped teach youngsters about the science of roller coasters and worked in small groups to design and build a working roller coaster, using pipe insulation for tracks and a marble for the car. “We tested out all of the tracks,” second-grader Eli Iovino, 7, said. “We learned how you can do stuff with science and technology. If you don’t know science, you won’t know how to do very much.” For kindergartner Maddie Johnson, her favorite part of the day was learning how to be a detective. “It was cool,” Maddie, 5, said. “We got to push buttons while sitting in the police car.”
Kindergarten Class Rewards Massachusetts State Trooper for his Act Kindness
The Massachusetts State Trooper who gained accidental fame for an act of kindness last month was paid back in kind on Friday when a Hudson kindergarten class invited him to lunch. Trooper Luke Bonin was leaving court in May when he spotted a panhandler on the side of the road in Fall River. Bonin went to a nearby restaurant and returned with lunch, after which the two shared a meal. The good deed may have gone unnoticed if not for a passerby who was touched by the scene and posted a photo on Facebook. From that point, the photo began being shared and the story was picked up by news sites throughout the country. One month later, it was Bonin's turn to have lunch bought for him. "Well, after Mrs. Mullen's Kindergarten class at Farley Elementary School in Hudson saw Trooper Bonin's kindness, one of the kindergarteners, yes that's right, one of the students, thought it would be a great idea to pay it forward and invite Trooper Bonin to lunch at the school," a post on the State Police Facebook page states. The class first made a banner to thank Bonin, which Mullen shipped to the Dartmouth Barracks at which he works. Afterwards, Mullen extended the invitation for Bonin to speak to the class and to have lunch at the school. "When Trooper Bonin arrived, he was welcomed with open arms and began with reading the class a book," the post states. "He also brought with him a globe and asked each student to put a fingerprint on the globe, while he talked to them about 'leaving a positive mark on the world' as they grow older, to do nice things for people and it will come back around to them, as good things will happen to them." The real reward though may have been for the students who, after lunch, had a chance to check out Trooper Bonin's cruiser, play with the lights and talk over the PA system. "Trooper Bonin was the star in Hudson today! However, he appreciated being invited and the chance to spend time with the class more than the children enjoyed having him," the post states. "Thank you again to Mrs. Mullen's kindergarten class."