RI troopers lace up to help families affected by cancer

SCITUATE, R.I. (WPRI) – Members of the R.I. State Police have run the Boston Marathon for the past five years in a row in order to raise money for the Cops for Kids with Cancer charity.

Troopers have presented a check to a Rhode Island family every year since they started, and this year they raised enough money to help out three local families.

Last Tuesday, they presented three $5,000 checks to Tina Almeida and her 10-year-old son Owen of North Smithfield, Claudia Huntley and her 12-year-old daughter Anna Kitada of North Smithfield, and Blanca Rosales and her 19-year-old son Emerson Rosales of Providence.

Each family was very grateful for the donations – money that will help ease the financial strain that comes along with the battle to beat cancer. It’s a war all three children used only a few words to describe.

“Tough,” said Anna.

“I feel sad,” said Emerson.

“Horrible,” said Owen.

Tina Almeida and her husband decided to adopt Owen and his brother, Julian, back in November. The very next month – Owen was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

“We did have a tough year – I had to leave my job of 22 years to take care of him and a few months after that my husband had gotten laid off,” said Almeida. “Luckily, he’s not here because he just started a job yesterday, so that’s amazing that he’s back to work.”

Claudia Huntley’s daughter, Anna, was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in August 2014. She’s still undergoing treatment.

“A couple months back we had tried a drug that was used in Europe frequently, but it’s not approved here [by] the FDA so we kind of went through most of our accumulated savings to pay for that drug,” said Huntley. “Unfortunately it didn’t do what we were hoping it would do, so this is really helpful that we can kind of replenish our stores for future treatments.”

These financial, emotional and physical challenges are obstacles the charity’s founder, Massachusetts State Police Lt. William Coulter, is all too familiar with.

“I’m also a cancer patient, I’ve been for 13 years,” said Coulter, who receives treatment at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. “I was in there twice last month for different surgeries and life is good. But for you patients just remember when it gets over then you’re here like me.”

“It does get over,” he added. “Then when it’s over … it feels like you never even did it.”

We sat down with three of the seven members of the R.I. State Police marathon team before the race in April, to learn what motivated them to run.

“I think about them and the help that we’re trying to give them,” said Cpl. John Gadrow. “Running the marathon is nothing compared to what they’re doing.”

Detective Amanda Brezniak said she’s seen several family members and friends go through treatments. “It affects everyone,” she said. “Not just the child but the family.”

“I think [about] these little kids that are going through this and if they’re able to battle cancer I can do 26 miles,” said Det. Lt. John Grassel.

State Police have raised a total of $50,000 since they started fundraising for the Cops for Kids with Cancer charity. Click here for information on how to donate to the program.

State Police are still working on forming their team for next year’s marathon.