Florida police hold parade for young cancer patient
CRESTVIEW — Five-year-old Charli Betts’ day was made much brighter, and considerably livelier, when a parade of Crestview Police Department vehicles — with lights flashing and sirens blaring — passed by her Williams Avenue home Thursday morning.
Charli suffers from diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG, a brain stem tumor found in the pons, the part of the brain stem that controls essential bodily functions such as the heartbeat, breathing, swallowing, eye movement, eyesight and balance.
According to the Michael Mosier Defeat DIPG Foundation website, the disorder strikes young children and is almost always fatal.
For Bree and Dakota Betts, each day with their only child is a blessing — and so was the parade in Charli’s honor.
Bree held her daughter and pointed out details on the vehicles while Dakota took photos of Charli, her eyes aglow as nearly a dozen police vehicles passed slowly by the family home, with the words “Charli Strong” written on their windows.
The fun didn’t end with the parade. After parking their cars, officers converged in front of the Betts home. Maintaining social distancing , they brought forth bags, boxes, balloons and tubs of presents for Charli. Included among the toys were stuffed unicorns — one of Charli’s favorite animals, after their big white family dog, Sid.
After the gifts were presented came another treat. K9 Officer Jay Peak brought up his partner, K9 Sonic, who peered over the edge of Charli’s wagon and received an affectionate pat of thanks on his soft black ears in return.
The visit might well have meant even more to Charli’s parents than it did to the girl. As a military family, their closest family members are in Washington and California.
“It’s a blessing,” Bree said as the officers waved good-bye and returned to their vehicles. “It felt a little empty and alone here when we learned about Charli’s condition, trying to process everything without someone to turn to.”
Such a display of support in their new home, organized by their neighbor, CPD Officer Wanda Hulion, reinforced Crestview’s reputation as a caring community in the Betts’s eyes.
I’m floored,” Bree said. “I didn’t know Crestview had this much love in it like this. We’re so grateful.”
Brian Hughes is the City of Crestview’s public information officer.