NEW CASTLE, Del. - Angel De Jesus Zamora will remember Tuesday morning for the rest of his life – and his family will remember it long after that.
The 5-year-old boy got to live out his dream as a New Castle County police officer at Carousel Park & Equestrian Center in Pike Creek after he was made an honorary captain for the day. Angel was diagnosed in February with terminal brain cancer and doctors say most children with his type of disease rarely survive more than a year.
"I'm sure he's happy," said his mother, Sandra Gutierrez. "Every time he saw police, he gets excited. ... We will remember this for the rest of our lives."
Angel spent most of Tuesday morning in the arms of his mother as she walked him from police horses to K-9 officers, all ready and excited to meet the young boy. Family members said this was the best day the boy had had in weeks, as the rare brainstem cancer, diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, has made him extremely tired.
More than 100 police officers and emergency personnel lined up to pat him on the back and offer well wishes to his family, as well as salute him during a proclamation from New Castle County Executive Thomas P. Gordon.
The boy was deemed an honorary policeman for the day, complete with a matching brown uniform and pins like the ones officers wear. Police motorcycles and SUVs escorted him from his home in Newport to the park and police training facility, where crowds of community members met him with cheers.
Gordon, blinking back tears, commended Angel for his bravery and courage shown in his fight against cancer, calling him a true county hero.
With the help of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, police were able to pull together the opportunity for Angel to experience his dream. New Castle County Police Chief Elmer Setting said this was the first time the police department hosted an experience of this kind during his time here.
"I couldn't even bring myself to read the whole proclamation," he said, his eyes red. "I hope we gave him a good day."
It also served as a reminder to many in attendance that life is precious and often too short. Aimee Laznik brought her 4-year-old son, Pax, to honor Angel. Like the young boy, Pax also wants to be a police officer some day, donning a blue uniform and hat in recognition of the special day.
The story hit especially close to home for the Newark family, Laznik said as she looked down at her son.
"It could be us," she said, her eyes welling with tears. "We wanted to come and celebrate with him. ... Hopefully, it will let (Pax) see some things to appreciate, too."
In addition to much-needed prayers, Angel's family is also accepting donations to help cover medical bills, travel, food and living costs that would normally be covered if not for his father's missed time at work. They are using a GoFundMe that can be found online here and hope to raise $15,000.
His mother, Sandra, paused while talking about Angel's condition. When they got the diagnosis on Feb. 29, doctors warned that there may not be a lot of time.
"They say that kids with this type of cancer don't have over a year," she said. "So we're going to make every day special for him."
Contact Brittany Horn at (302) 324-2771 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @brittanyhorn.
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