A laughter, steak and beard-filled Warwick F.O.P. Lodge turned emotional Thursday evening when Warwick police personnel handed over a check to Helena Rafferty, deputy chief of the Canton, Mass. Police Department and president of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Cops for Kids with Cancer.
“I get choked up doing this kind of stuff because when you go on a donation with these families and you hand them a check for $5,000 you can just see the stress come off these parents who are just sitting every day [wondering] ‘How am I going to pay the gas bill? How am I going to get gas for the car to get my child in for treatment?’” Rafferty said. “That's what this money is spent on.”
As Rafferty alluded to, normally the charitable campaigns undertaken by police departments from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire have a goal of $5,000. Warwick police wound up raising more than $6,000. The check, which was written as $5,900, was made out before a final slew of donations.
Getting donations for the cause – donating directly to families who have a young child battling cancer – is rallied by police chiefs allowing their normally clean-shaven cops to grow bushy beards and moustaches during November, as part of what is dubbed “No Shave November.” For those curious, women officers and detectives who wished to participate could sport a yellow ribbon on their uniform.
“It [creates] solidarity and you're helping people along the way,” Rafferty said, remaining choked up during her speech after receiving the check. “We took the oath to protect and serve, and I firmly believe that this is the ‘serve’ part of that oath; helping and giving back, especially to the most vulnerable in our communities.”
Warwick police chief, Colonel Stephen McCartney, had to temporarily waive uniform restrictions in order to allow the campaign to happen. He joined in the growing movement too, as did Mayor Scott Avedisian – although they both had to shave prior to the end of the month.
McCartney described the month as a “great cause,” and something that would be a potential conversation starter to also help to humanize officers on the street.
Cops for Kids with Cancer began as an idea in Ireland in 2001 and was established in 2002. It then moved to Boston, beginning as a rivalry golf tournament between the Boston police and the Irish police force Garda Síochána. It has since grown significantly and has raised about $2.5 million dollars for nearly 500 families.
While other organizations focus solely on donating towards cancer research, Cops for Kids with Cancer focuses on the day-to-day lives of families affected by cancer. Each family receives around $5,000 to handle bills, transportation costs, or comforts they couldn’t otherwise afford. Rafferty recalled one family buying a swing set for their 4-year-old daughter who could no longer make it to the park due to sickness from chemotherapy.
“Every little penny helps. You make such a difference with this,” Rafferty said. “I want this charity to not exist, I really do. But that's not the reality we're dealing with.”
Rafferty hopes that the organization can become synonymous with police departments around the country, like fire departments are synonymous with raising money in their boots for muscular dystrophy. She said that the fundraising helps spotlight the benevolent work that police do.
“People don't often see the good that police officers do,” she said. “It's really important to see that what we do every day is help people.”