Little chiefs can have big dreams, too

Two special kids were honored as Chief for a Day by the Covington Police Department and the King County Sheriff’s Department.

Chief for a Day is about much more than giving kids gifts and a fun day — it’s about helping their families and giving kids a break from doctor’s appointments all while making them feel normal.

The Chief for a Day program was celebrated Aug. 16 with all 34 little chiefs (children who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening or chronic medical condition) coming together at the Criminal Justice Training Center in Burien. The chiefs were transported by police motorcade from the ShoWare Center in Kent to the training center.

Each child was given a hand-tailored uniform from their sponsoring agency and then were sworn in as “chief” or “sheriff” for the day, according to the Chief for a Day Facebook page.

Covington Police Chief Andrew McCurdy made this day, and many others, very special for two children — Teagan Fettig, 3, and Joshua Kitt Morris (JK), 7.

According to JK’s mom, Anita Morris, JK is autistic and has some brain abnormalities. She said the main brain abnormality is polymicrogyria, which stands for many little folds in the brain. It’s linked to IQ and it is possible for him to have epileptic seizures in his future.

Teagan had medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer, her mom, Tatum Fettig, said. She got a full resection, which means the doctors did get all of the cancer out of her brain without it spreading to her spine. The downfall though, she has had some serious complications from the treatments she had. For example, she now has a hard time walking and keeping her balance, Tatum said.

Teagan was technically King County Sheriff for a day, but according to McCurdy, himself, the Covington Police Department and the Maple Valley Police Department took her on as their own.

“When I started reaching out two years ago, somebody recommended that I reach out to the Children’s Therapy Unit in Kent and that’s how I found my first two kids (for Chief for a Day). So I reached out to them again and they’re familiar with the program and kind of what we’re trying to do and they recommended JK’s family,” McCurdy said. “The families that they recommend, the kids are amazing, but I think they also recognize that having a family that’s really going to benefit from the extra love and support from the community — I think they just have some families that they know are going to embrace the whole process of being chief for a day.”

McCurdy invited both Teagan and JK to all the same events throughout the year starting in the summer, not just the one Chief for a Day swearing in ceremony.

He said JK was able to participate in the Maple Valley Days Parade (Teagan was not able to join that day) and then they both were able to participate in the Covington Days Parade.

“Teagan rode in one of our Covington Police Cars at the very front of the parade and then JK rode in a vintage King County Sheriff’s Office police car as like the second or first car in the parade,” McCurdy said.

Tatum said even her 6-year-old son had a great time during the Chief for a Day celebration as well.

“I have a son, too and sometimes people don’t realize how much it affects the sibling as well as the (sick) child. So for him it was really fun because he’s 6 and he got to see everything. He got to see the police vehicles, the police people, he was so excited. Teagan is only three, so it doesn’t all sink in,” Tatum said.

On top of having new and exciting experiences like participating in parades, McCurdy said the departments were able to raise about $2,500 for the families, to give Teagan and JK anything they want.

McCurdy said the kids make their wish lists and then the Kiwanis Club in Covington managed all the fundraising to try and get enough money to gift the kids what they want.

“JK is really into baseball, so we got him a little baseball set. Teagan, wanted a room makeover so we actually have a company that came in and are basically remaking her bedroom for her,” McCurdy said. “Usually it gives the kid a little happiness and comfort and to have something to look forward to other than doctors appointments.”

McCurdy knows the feeling of the unknown at doctor’s appointments just as well as Tatum and Anita.

His son has chronic medical conditions and was sponsored as Chief for a Day by the Washington State Patrol four years ago.

Both Anita and Tatum said Chief for a Day was much more than they had ever imagined it would be.

They also both agreed McCurdy was a real hero in all of this.

“At one point, Chief McCurdy he said, ‘This is not just about JK, but about the police department recognizing that your family does so much in our community. Not just for your child. We’re thankful to have you in our community and want to show our support to you,’” Anita said with tears welling up. “He’s really just a genuinely sweet man … I just think he’s great.”

Tatum wanted to bring more parents who have children with chronic illnesses, like McCurdy and Anita, together.

To do this, she created a nonprofit called “Sweet Tea Cancer Connections.”

She said it’s a way to connect parents through an app going through the same hardship of having a child with a chronic illness.

The name for the nonprofit came from Tatum’s sister. She said her sister is from the south and since they drink a lot of sweet tea there, the name kind of fit and sounded right.

To learn more about Tatum’s nonprofit go to https://sweetteaconnections.org/our-team-1/.

McCurdy said the Chief for a Day program can be life changing for kids and their families.

“It’s just such a break. I saw that too with JK and Teagan’s families. When they agreed to it I don’t think they knew what they were getting into. I think they thought it would be a small deal and thought it would a little recognition here and there, I don’t think they had any idea it was as big of a deal as it was. I think both of them were really impacted by it after the fact,” he said.

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Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in a neighborhood near you. You can read more of her writing on her website livingwithgleigh.com. To see her columns come to life, follow her on Facebook at Living with Gleigh by Gretchen Leigh.
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