A young boy with autism was treated to a heartwarming first day of school when more than 20 police officers — including his father, who temporarily left the hospital where he is getting treatment for cancer — gathered to walk him to school.
The band of police officers helped escort 5-year-old Carmine Matteline, of Chesterfield, Missouri, this week after his father, Andy Matteline, had been hospitalized with esophageal and stomach cancer, according to KTVI.
“We’re friends but we’re family also,” officer Chris Kaatmann told the news station. “We want to do whatever we can to again make this day special for him and his family.”
But just as Carmine was getting ready to make the trek from his home to his kindergarten class with the officers, his father surprised everyone by appearing with two nurses and his brother-in-law, who’s a physician, after he received permission to leave the hospital for a few hours, KTVI reported. He had no idea that his fellow officers were already there.
“Get the joy, you can’t buy that, get the happiness; this is awesome,” Andy told the group. “Thank you, guys, so much. It’s amazing to see that support.”
In all, representatives from nine separate departments — including officers with the St. John, Bel-Bor, Breckenridge Hills, Chesterfield, Maryland Heights, Warson Woods, Normandy, Webster Groves and St. Louis County police departments, plus deputies from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office — all showed up for the special moment.
“It’s pretty amazing. It’s so touching to see everyone here and everyone that hears about Andy wants to be there for Carmine,” Mary Matteline, Carmine’s mother, told KTVI.
Because Carmine has autism, the parents said they spent considerable time preparing him to interact with other children before the big day — one of the key reasons Andy wanted to see him off.
“This is one of the biggest days and I didn’t want to miss this,” Andy said. “He means the world to me. We’ve been through a lot together.”