Bethel Park 8-year-old with tumor gets to be a police officer for a day


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It turns out the world’s youngest police officer is also its happiest, politest and quickest to flash a smile.

Joey Fabus, an 8-year-old from Bethel Park, could not contain a toothy grin as he was administered the police officer’‍s oath in a packed courtroom at the town’s municipal center Tuesday. A giggle even sneaked its way into the lengthy oath — “municipality” is a tough word to pronounce.

Less than two months ago, Joey was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, an aggressive and inoperable brain tumor.

Joey is growing up with plenty of family members in law enforcement and the military — including a sister, Clarissa, 20, in the Air National Guard; and his godfather, a Pittsburgh police officer — and he hopes to one day be a police officer, too.

The Bethel Park Police Department made it happen in grand fashion on Tuesday.

Decked out in a custom-made uniform, Joey was sworn in by District Judge Ronald Arnoni, accompanied Officer Tom Rigatti on patrol, issued a “citation” and was honored by Mayor Jack Allen’‍s proclamation of “Joey Fabus Day.”

The event was the latest example of the Bethel Park community rallying around Joey and his family as they fight the disease.

A golf tournament on Sunday drew more than 140 participants. A concert is planned for July 19.

All of the benefits will go to “Little Joey’s Army,” a fund established to help cover health care costs and related expenses.

His busy summer also includes a date with the Pittsburgh Pirates Aug. 25, when he will throw out the first pitch at PNC Park.

There were no financial proceeds from today’‍s festivities, but the benefits were many.

Joey’s parents, David and Cindy Fabus, approached the police department a few weeks ago about setting up the event, and Chief John Mackey quickly agreed. Officer Rigatti spearheaded the planning.

“It’‍s just always something he’s wanted to do,” said Joey’‍s grandmother, Barbara Eichelsbacher of Bethel Park.

Joey met with Chief Mackey last week, when he was issued his uniform and told to report for duty on Tuesday.

“He was running all over the house this morning,” said Olivia Fabus, Joey’s 16 year-old sister, describing his excitement on the big day. “Like all his police toys — he wanted to bring them all.”

Family and friends flocked to the event, many wearing green shirts that read “Joey Strong.” On the back, the shirts had a picture of dog tags, one with the words “Little Joey’‍s Army,” and the other with what’s become something of a motto: “Cherish every moment.”

One such moment to be remembered was the oath.

“Ready to get sworn in?” asked Judge Arnoni.

A nod, a smile: “Mm-hmm.”

After the oath, Judge Arnoni presented the newly minted officer with a toy police car and the pair of handcuffs he used when he was an officer.

Then, Joey headed out on patrol with Officer Rigatti.

Joey’‍s treatment at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC is ongoing.

“He’s never going to give up,” said Olivia, his older sister. “None of us are.”

For more information about Joey and Little Joey’‍s Army, go to www.littlejoeysarmy.net.


Matt Nussbaum: mnussbaum@post-gazette.com. First Published June 24, 2014 5:21 PM

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