As 5-year-old boy with autism prepared to go to his first day of kindergarten, he knew that one very special hero in his life wouldn’t be there: his father.
But thanks to his father’s brothers and sisters in blue — and the staff at his father’s hospital — the young boy received an emotional escort on his first day of school.
Andy Mattaline, a police officer in Woodson Terrace, Missouri, has been hospitalized at Saint Louis University Hospital since early August while he battles esophageal and stomach cancer.
According to a GoFundMe set up for the family, he will be out of work for eight-to-12 weeks so he can fully focus on his treatment.
As his son’s first day of kindergarten approached, Andy knew that he wanted to walk Carmine to his first day of school.
Mattaline asked the staff at the hospital if he could leave for just a few hours to walk his son to school on Aug. 12, 2019. When he request was cleared by his doctors, his was overcome with emotion.
“This is one of my biggest days and I didn’t want to miss this,” Mattaline told KTVI. “He means the world to me. We’ve been through a lot together.”
What Mattaline didn’t know, however, is that more 20 officers from 10 different departments planned to escort Carmine to school in case his father couldn’t come home.
When the recovering police officer arrived home, he was surprised by the support his colleagues had shown.
“We’re friends but we’re family also,” Officer Chris Kaatmann told KTVI. “We want to do whatever we can to again make this day special for him and his family.”
With assistance from two nurses and his brother-in-law who is a surgeon at the Saint Louis University Hospital, Mattaline escorted his son to school with a procession of Carmine’s “Blue Family Uncles and Aunts.”
After Carmine was in school, the officers were able to give well wishes to Mattaline before he had to return to the hospital to continue his recovery.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Officer Mattaline’s wife Mary said. “It’s so touching to see everyone here and everyone that hears about Andy wants to be there for Carmine.”
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