Michigan police grant wish of boy with muscle disorder

Cory Smith
The Daily News

Greenville — On Halloween, Brady Wesley was beaming with excitement, trick-or-treating in his Sheridan neighborhood in a costume fitted to his wheelchair.

The 11-year-old boy, who since birth has dealt with a mitochondrial disease, leaving his muscles severely weakened, is sometimes ashamed and even bullied by other students due to his need for a wheelchair, but thanks to the craftiness of his parents, he was the star of the town for an evening in October as he strolled through the community.

Brad and Lacey Wesley worked for 14 hours to turn their son’s electric wheelchair into a custom special weapons and tactics (SWAT) vehicle, made from cardboard and wood, complete with decals and working headlights and taillights.

“He drove it for an hour and half, trick-or-treating and inspecting candy,” Brad said.

“I wanted to do a pirate ship and all of us in the family dress as pirates with him being the captain, but he said ‘no, I want to be a SWAT member,’ ” Lacey added.

The only disappointment of the day was that Brady didn’t come face-to-face with any police officers.

“The State Police are usually stationed here in Sheridan, that’s why Brady wanted to trick-or-treat at home this year,” Brad said.

Brady’s disappointment didn’t last for long.

Trooper Cory Zimmerman of the Michigan State Police Lakeview Post heard about Brady’s unique costume and medical condition after the Daily News shared Brady’s Halloween photos on Facebook.

“To see something like this was completely unexpected, and the work, everything they did for him, it was definitely something special and I wanted to reach out to them,” Zimmerman said. “This was something that was really out of the norm and completely unexpected. It just warms your heart.”

Troopers arranged for the Wesley family to visit the police station this month and meet actual Michigan State Police troopers.

“At first I thought it would just be a little tour,” Brad said. “We were excited for that.”

But the troopers were too excited to limit Brady and his family’s experience to a simple tour.

Upon arriving and receiving an up-close look at offices and workstations, as Brady turned his wheelchair into the last room of the tour, Sgt. Rich Gorajec and Trooper Alex Zamarron were waiting for him — in full Emergency Support Team (EST) tactical gear.

To Brady’s surprise, he was able to hold an actual riot shield, wear an authentic helmet and put on the protective vest worn by officers in the field.

With smiles shared throughout the room, Lakeview Post Lt. Commander Kevin Sweeney said the experience was beloved by the troopers as much as it was by Brady.

“It’s encouraging to see something like that, and I think it brings a little inspiration to us,” he said. “Public sentiment toward the police sometimes isn’t always the most positive, so it’s refreshing to see something like this.”

When Sweeney was approached by Zimmerman about a possible visit for Brady, he didn’t hesitate in allowing troopers to pull out all the stops.

Troopers Casey Lalone and James Hutchinson brought their canine units, allowing Brady to pet Lalone’s dog, Starksy, and see him in action as he worked with Lalone in a demonstration.

And perhaps the biggest surprise awaited Brady outside, as an actual Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck (BEARCAT) — the vehicle his parents worked to emulate for Halloween — was parked behind the station.

With a chance to sit inside, Brady was left in awe, marveling at the large vehicle.

“Is it a bumpy ride?” he asked.

“Want to find out?” Gorajec replied.

“We can do that?” Brady asked in excitement.

“Who’s going to stop us?” Gorajec joked with a laugh.

And seated in the back with the rest of his family, the troopers drove Brady in the vehicle down M-46 for a quick trip into Lakeview and back.

“I was excited,” Brady said. “Riding in the SWAT truck, that was the best part of today.”

To conclude the evening, troopers presented Brady with gifts, from official EST T-shirts, hats badges and stickers to an authentic double-sided “ES coin,” normally reserved for troopers who serve on EST units.

“He has this physical ailment, who knows what the future has in store for him, so we just wanted to make this a special day for him and teach him a little bit about the state police,” Sweeney said. “I hope that he has a very nice memory from this experience and with his interests, I hope he considers the state police for future employment.”

For Brady’s parents, the hour-and-half spent at the Lakeview Post was hard to believe.

“We didn’t feel like it was real, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen to us,” Lacey said. “It’s like a dream come true, and to see Brady so happy, it’s really nice.”

According to Brad, the family’s DVR at home is full of police-related television shows, from “Live PD” to “COPS,” as Brady never tires of his interest in police officers and the work they do.

Now after meeting with state troopers and riding in an actual BEARCAT vehicle, Brady’s passion is only expected to grow.

“They went way above and beyond today,” Brad said. “It was awesome. This is something he loves, and this has made him so happy.”

For Zimmerman, the feeling was mutual as he’s hopeful Brady can serve as an inspiration to troopers.

“We don’t see something like this very often,” he said. “I’ve been here seven years, and to see something where someone in the community sees us in that light, especially at his age with everything that he has going on in his life, it’s just amazing.”