AURORA, Colo. - The holidays are a tough time to be in the hospital. That’s why hundreds of officers from 33 law enforcement agencies around Colorado took part in the 17th annual Joe Bumberger Long Blue Line toy drive to Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora.
“We want to make this time a little more special for them," Aurora police Chief Nick Metz said.
Over the past 17 years, law enforcement officers have visited 7,000 patients. It started with Aurora Officer James Seneca and his partner.
“This is personal for me. I was diagnosed with leukemia 32 years ago, so I get a little emotional. It’s still raw, 32 years later," Seneca said.
He survived and founded the nonprofit organization “Cops Fighting Cancer” as his way of giving back.
“It’s rewarding, it’s humbling. I count my blessings. My kids are healthy. I’m healthy, I know what it’s like to go through a difficult situation like I went through, so you don’t forget... even 32 years ago," Seneca said.
Nearly 300 officers delivered toys to each child in the hospital on Thursday.
Shari Tiilikainen said her son, Taavi, is on his 80th hospital admission and this was a welcome distraction.
“I think it’s absolutely phenomenal that they bring such joy to our room," Tiilikainen said. "It really means a lot. It was a huge surprise. It’s really nice to see him smiling. It’s rough being here all the time. It’s good to have something to motivate him to get up and have something to be happy about."
Seneca told the patients, “This is your family right here. This is your blue family. We have your back, we have your six. All these law enforcement officers wish you well.”