PATASKALA, Ohio (AP) — Eight-year-old Braxton Long had already become a prominent figure in his small community in Licking County, and he had already made a habit of looking out for others.
All the Pataskala Division of Police did was to make it official.
“He has always said that when he grows up, he wants to be a police officer,” said his mother, Brittany Long. “Because he wanted to help people.”
It seemed his first duty was keeping a constant smile, even as he battled through what is now his third bout with cancer, Long said. Braxton later made it his duty to help start a Lego drive for the other children with cancer he met at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
And when he walked into Pataskala City Hall with his parents just before Christmas to pick up the toys, he found a table nearly overflowing with boxes of the building blocks, along with scores of police officers, the mayor of Pataskala and more than 100 supporters waiting for him. Some of the people were wearing blue shirts with the Superman insignia, but with the traditional red S swapped for B, for Braxton.
“It’s amazing, overwhelming,” Long said afterward, wiping away tears. “When I walked into the room, I was blown away by the amount of support he had here.”
So was Braxton. He stood speechless as the mayor gave him an official Pataskala Division of Police hat, shirt and officer’s vest before taking a knee and swearing him in as a junior police officer.
Braxton has been diagnosed with cancer three times since October 2014. In November, he was diagnosed again, this time with an aggressive brain cancer called glioblastoma. His mother said he is set to again undergo chemotherapy.
“He’s always got a smile on his face,” said Braxton’s father, Josh Long. “That is one of the things that a lot of people say about him. Even when he is in the hospital, all the nurses are always happy to see him, because he’s the one with a smile on his face, making their days.”
A little over a month ago, Braxton told his parents he wanted to donate Legos to the other children at Nationwide. His original goal was to give eight boxes. He soon upped it, declaring to his mother his new mission was to donate 253 boxes, his father said.
After Braxton’s story made the rounds on social media, at least one new box of Legos has arrived every day at his parents’ Reynoldsburg home. Braxton has already met his goal, surpassing it by nearly 400.
“Here is a kid with brain cancer, yet he is thinking about making sure the other kids down at the children’s hospital, that he’s been palling around with, get some Legos for Christmas,” Pataskala Mayor Mike Compton said. “He’s not thinking about himself.”
During the cookie social that followed the ceremony, Braxton greeted to fans, filled his plate with Lego-shaped, frosted cookies and petted Junior, a 10-year-old Belgian Malinois set to retire from the Pataskala K-9 unit.
Pataskala Police Chief Bruce Brooks said he had heard Braxton wanted to be a police officer, and that all his division did was expedite the process a bit to get his career on the force started a little early. Joining Pataskala to see Braxton receive his certificate of commission were officers from Reynoldsburg, Newark, Heath, Buckeye Lake and the State Highway Patrol and others.
And, after Braxton got a chance to sit in the driver’s seat of a Pataskala police cruiser to check its lights and siren, he and other officers pulled away from City Hall in a Franklin County SWAT vehicle to start his first shift, making sure those Legos made it to Nationwide.
Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com
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