Pa. cops give boy who once feared police birthday surprise
The officers delighted the six-year-old, who developed his fear of police in foster care, with numerous patches, gift cards, a police uniform and a motorized police cruiser
By Connor Moffitt
WEST WYOMING, Pa. — Police lights and sirens flooded an otherwise quiet street Thursday evening, but this was no emergency.
Kim and Steve Gittens, both of West Wyoming, were playing with their children in the front yard of their home when a half-dozen police cars approached.
About 15 officers from departments around the area, plus one canine detective, exited their vehicles and approached the Gittens family bearing gifts for the unsuspecting Travis Gittens, who just celebrated his sixth birthday Tuesday.
When the boy first came to the Gittenses through foster care, he brought with him a fear of police.
But that has gradually changed thanks to some well-meaning officers, a lot of community support, and a really neat motorized police cruiser he now counts among his possessions.
It all started over a week ago when the family held a birthday party for Travis at the Super Bounce in Wyoming. While planning the party, the business owner asked Kim Gittens if she would be interested in any characters for the party.
“No, Travis isn’t really into characters,” Gittens recalls answering. “Unless, of course, you can get a police officer,” she added.
In the last year, Travis has set his heart on becoming a policeman when he grows up. Gittens never expected anything to come of the request.
But Forty Fort resident Donnie Evans, a friend of police, was able to help.
“I got a call about Travis’ birthday and was told he wants to be a police officer,” said Evans. He then reached out to his friend, West Pittston Police Chief Michael Turner, to make something happen.
Turner sent Ptlm. Tony DeMark to the party with a patch to give to Travis as a gift.
That wasn’t the first time Travis had come in contact with DeMark. “Officer DeMark came to Travis’ preschool,” Kim explained. “Ever since then, he’s been his hero.”
Support pours in
Travis, now a kindergartner, hasn’t always loved law enforcement, however.
After seeing how nervous Travis was after a routine interaction with an officer in the neighborhood, his parents knew they had to do something. “Gradually, over time, we told him how police are here to help you and to save you and one day he said he wants to be a police officer,” said Kim.
When the West Pittston Police Department posted about DeMark’s visit to the birthday party on Facebook, support from the community started pouring in. When Evans saw this, he knew he could do more for Travis. Evans began to reach out to the community and said he received $450 in donations for gifts within 20 minutes. He then began to set up Thursday night’s surprise.
The officers delighted Travis with numerous patches, gift cards, a police uniform and a motorized police cruiser to ride in.
Ptlm. DeMark stressed the positive effects that outreach like this can have.
“A lot of people have a negative image of police… (but) we’re your friends,” he said. “We are humans before police officers.”
In addition to the gifts, Travis even got to take a ride in a police truck.
But his favorite part of the night?
“I liked to pet the dog,” the boy exclaimed.