'Cancer Ninja’ celebrated in Black Diamond

Howard “Howie” Koch may not have been able to attend the fundraiser in his honor, but he still made a strong impression.

Koch, 3, is one of dozens of children who will be Chief for a Day around the state on August 21. The Black Diamond Department struck first, holding a luncheon for Koch on June 22 at Mama Passarelli’s restaurant. The fundraiser collected thousands of dollars, which will be donated to Howie’s family. Howie was unable to attend the June fundraiser because he is in the hospital.

Police Chief Jamey Kiblinger has known Howie’s mom, Jenna, since she was a kid. Kiblinger said she doesn’t know much about the little guy other than he is “the cutest little thing you’ve ever seen” and a perfect fit for the cause.

“It’s just one more example of the things that we try to do for our community,” Kiblinger said. “We are in the service business and I don’t think there’s a better cause than our kids.”

Koch was diagnosed with stage four Neuroblastoma in Dec. 2013, at the age of 2. Doctors determined a tumor in Koch’s adrenal gland was sitting on his kidney and required chemotherapy. The tumor was removed in April, but Koch still undergoes chemotherapy and will need various other procedures, including a bone marrow transplant, over the next few months.

After months of fighting through the disease, Little Howie gained the moniker “Cancer Ninja.”

The Black Diamond Police Department has reached out to a chronically ill child from the city since 2010. The goal is to help the child focus on his or her dreams, rather than the illness. Previous honorees were Preston Bradbury in 2010 and Isaiah Weaver in 2012.

“You want to give this kid, even if it’s just a day, a day of fun and a day away from the hospital,” Kiblinger said. “All good stuff.”

In August, each of the 34 participating law enforcement agencies will provide their honorary “Chief” or “Sheriff” with a hand-tailored uniform and a gift basket that includes items for the child and their family, such as toys, movie passes, gas cards and various gift cards. Koch is one of the youngest of this year’s honorees, with the range up to 14 years old.

During the grand event, Koch and the other mini chief’s will dress in uniforms of their sponsoring agencies and receive a police escort from the ShoWare Center to the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission in Burien, where they will be sworn in as chiefs and sheriffs. The honorees will then be served lunch and participate in presentations with the K-9 units, bike patrols, SWAT and rifle units.


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