Local Police Officers, Fire Fighters, and Other Volunteers Deliver Christmas Presents to 4-Year-Old Cancer Patient
by James Coulter
Nearly a mile of police cars led by a fire truck traveled to the home of a four-year-old cancer patient in Winter Haven to deliver her a magical Christmas evening. Four-year-old Kate received a visit from Santa Claus, along with local firefighters, law enforcement, and other volunteers, who delivered her Christmas presents, including a large-scale dollhouse and a rocking horse.
More than 15 to 20 officers from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrived to deliver young Kate her presents. Invited by the local volunteer group, the Christmas Angels, they gathered outside the Race Trac gas station along Havendale before driving to the young girl’s house in a parade of vehicles nearly a mile long.
Officer Keith Hargrove and his fellow officers from the Winter Haven Police Department and Polk County Sheriff’s Office, along with fire fighters from the Winter Haven Fire Department and Polk County Fire Rescue, agreed to visit the little girl that evening to assist a young person in need and provide something positive to the community.
“We thought we could help our kids out,” he said. “I called some of the officers up. I said this is something we could do. As you can see, they are joining up in bunches.”
Last year, Kate was taken to her pediatrician after her mother, Laura, noticed the young girl was painfully limping and suffering from low-grade fevers. The doctor ordered several tests, including an x-ray and ultrasound of her liver, spleen, and kidneys.
“A few hours later, her pediatrician told me that [there] were spots in her liver,” Laura wrote on her daughter’s Team Kate page on Facebook. “At one point, she used the word “masses,”and it was at that point I knew my baby had cancer.”
Kate was diagnosed with high-risk Neuroblastoma stage 4 cancer on October 18, 2019. She visited countless hospitals throughout the state to receive her treatments, even visiting three hospitals in a day and a half, Laura said.
“It has been a long journey thus far,” she wrote. “Kate has had a total of 7 rounds of chemo and tumor resection of the primary tumor in her abdomen. Kate is now entering high-dose chemo, stem cell transplant.”
Her daughter suffered over the past year, yet the Christmas gifts delivered to her Saturday evening helped alleviate the pain she and her family had endured and helped make their Christmas slightly more magical, especially during these trying and uncertain times.
“It is pretty amazing,” Laura said. “I didn’t expect this. Kate has been through a lot over the past year, year and a half. And for the community, to do this for her, and to bring all this, it is remarkable. We will always hold a special place in our hearts, and we appreciate it very much.”
Sheila Davis, a resident, coordinated the toy delivery that evening along with other volunteers from her group, the Christmas Angels. For the past 30 years, she and her team havebeen delivering toys to local children in need. Last year, she helped give presents to Braeden, a young local boy currently battling cancer. Every year, she and her team select a young child and a family in need. They then collect presents from the community and then delivers the gifts around Christmas time.
“[We expect] to get them to forget their cancer for a while and to make some beautiful memories with this all,” Davis said. “That is our goal every time, and we succeed every time. To see their little faces when we drop it off is so heartwarming. Their parents, it is like they do not have a worry all of a sudden. They are in the moment. That is our goal every year.”
Thirty years ago, Davis lost her own child to cancer. During his life, she saw multiple strangers go out of their way to help her and her family during their hard times. She wanted to return the favor by assisting others in the same way she was helped.
As someone who had experienced a loved one suffering from cancer, she knows the pain the experience can cause people. If their toy deliveries can help alleviate the pain momentarily, and offer a brief reprieve during this time of year, then she has succeeded.
“Our goal is to make it where they are so into the Christmas we leave them, that it is the only thing they can think of,” Davis said. “They can’t think of the sickness that stays on their mind seven days a week, 24 hours a day, that they can focus on making memories after we leave them.”
She and her team requested a police officer and fire truck to escort them. Through the hard work of various local law enforcement and fire departments, their request for one officer and one fire truck was granted with a large parade of vehicles and officers.
“When they asked Winter Haven Police Dept for an escort it grew even larger,” she said via e-mail. “WHPD asked Polk County Sheriff Department and Winter Haven Fire Department and the word spread to the Amazing turnout for Ms. Kate’s family.”
Donna Harden joined Davis and her team for the first time this year. As someone with grandchildren, Harden wanted to help other young children in the community, especially those who are going through hard times.
“We want to let them take their minds off what they have been going through, all of the treatments,” she said. “Just to see their [happy] faces is enough.”
Buffy Nance has been assisting Harden for the past two years. She loves being able to see children’s happy faces, especially after facing such adversity in their lives.
“This year, we are blowing it out of the roof. This family is going to be amazed. This is going to be amazing,” she said. “It is very heart touching. There is nothing I would rather do than this.”
Both Kate and Braeden have Facebook pages detailing their battle with cancer. Feel free to follow Kate’s page at: https://www.facebook.com/teamkatewarriors, and Braeden’s page at: https://www.facebook.com/BraedenEStrong.