Evanston police and fire officials reach out to 10-year-old with leukemia


Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Staff from Evanston Police Department and Evanston fire department gather Thursday afternoon to send off 10-year-old Julian Sims before his scheduled bone marrow transplant. Sims was diagnosed with leukemia last year.

Paige Leskin, Reporter

When more than 20 police cars and fire trucks showed up on the street where 10-year-old Julian Sims lives Thursday, the commotion confused him. But when the officers and firefighters showed up on his doorstep with balloons and bags of gifts, he knew they were there for him.

“We want to show him we’re 110 percent behind him,” Evanston Police officer Heidi Bernhardt said.

EPD officers and Evanston fire department officials participated in a motorcade Thursday, blocking off the 1500 block of Church Street to have a surprise visit to Julian at his home.

Julian, a fifth-grade student at Dewey Elementary School, was diagnosed with leukemia in October 2013. The Sims family has been looking for a match for a bone marrow transplant since November, holding bone marrow drives and raising money to get people tested. Two months ago, the incessant searching paid off, and the family found a match.

Julian starts the transplant process Friday when he reports to the hospital, where he will be confined to a room for more than a month without any visitors besides his parents. Bernhardt said the police and fire departments raised more than $3,000 in gifts for Julian and his family that would improve the time spent in the hospital. The items included gift cards, Chicago Blackhawks memorabilia and Xbox Live games that would allow Julian to talk and play with friends and his brother Miles.

“I was blown away,” Julian’s father Rich Sims said. “I had no idea it was going to be that big and with so many people.”

Officers lined up outside the Sims’ house to take turns greeting Julian and shaking his hand. Julian was presented with a police uniform top, complete with a personalized ID tag and a t-shirt signed by all of the firefighters.

After posing in a picture with all the officers, Julian, with a smile on his face, climbed into a fire truck and took a ride around Evanston.

“I feel that a lot of people respect me,” Julian said. “They’re trying to help me get through it.”

Julian’s story was brought to the officers’ attention by police officers Joseph Panek and Sean O’Brien. The two policemen, after reading articles about Julian online, showed up at the Sims’ house to volunteer to help Julian and his family.

When they found out Julian had found a match and was going to the hospital for his transplant, the officers reached out to the police department to organize something. They then reached out to captain/paramedic Jeffrey Boetto of the Evanston fire department, who gathered officers and five trucks to join the motorcade and support Julian.

“It’s a way to give back to the community,” Boetto said. “We wanted to give him some inspiration.”

Julian’s mother, Romy Sims, said her family has been lucky throughout the entire process. The Sims family, through the Be the Match Foundation, has raised more than $6,000 and has not had to pay for Julian’s transplant at all.

Romy Sims also said the officers’ help was so great since they didn’t have to help Julian — they wanted to.

“It’s above and beyond their duty,” she said. “It came from the heart. It’s totally uplifting.”

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Twitter: @paigeleskin