NORTH MIAMI, Fla. – Chief Larry Juriga welcomed a boy who is undergoing treatment at the Miami Cancer Institute on Thursday to the North Miami Police Department headquarters.
Eli celebrated his 6th-birthday on Sunday and he was expecting a ride-along, but Juriga had so much more than that waiting for him and his family from West Palm Beach.
“We recognize the challenge that he is going through, both he and his family, so we are just so happy to be able to support him,” Juriga said.
About a dozen police officers dressed up as superheroes and brought him gifts. Juriga had a police baseball cap, balloons, a Spiderman-themed cake, confetti, and uniformed officers on police horses and motorcycles ready to greet him.
Juriga took Eli to ride a golden patrol car with a “Let’s End Childhood Cancer” sign.
To make the rare surprise party happen, the department was supporting the Mystic Force Foundation, a North Miami-based nonprofit organization focused on raising funds for pediatric cancer research and a safe space for patients to play.
Silvia Dominguez-Vanni and her husband, Dr. Steven Vanni, co-founded the nonprofit as a tribute to their son Salvatore “Sal” Vanni, who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when he was 4 and died on March 19, 2011. He was 7 years old.
With the support of donors, the foundation runs the Heroes Hangout Center, a private lounge that is maintained for immunocompromised pediatric patients at 1943 NE 164 St., in North Miami Beach. It has been open since September 2018.
Eli was expected to continue his birthday celebration with his two sisters at the center on Thursday afternoon.