Police and firefighters go above and beyond for bullied boy's 11th birthday

This is one of those stories that reminds you police and firefighters are often some of the best people around, not just as professional doing a tough job in a difficult environment but as people who genuinely care for others.

It’s the story of Braden Garnett, an 11-year-old boy living in Pekin, Illinois who has Asperger’s, dyslexia and a medical condition that causes his eyes to cross. As you might expect, some of the kids at Garnett’s school are cruel, calling him a “cross-eyed freak” and generally bullying him on the playground. “I’m bullied constantly,” Braden tells CNN.

If that wasn’t enough, things get tougher every year when it comes time for Braden’s birthday. His mother, Carrie Garnett, sends out dozens of invitations but, every year, only a couple of kids respond that they are coming to Braden’s party. “There have been many parties when only two kids showed up,” Carrie tells CNN. She adds, “I want him to have what all the other kids had.”

So as Braden’s birthday came around this year and, once again, only a handful of kids who received invitations said they would attend, his mom sent an email to the local police department. She asked if they would consider sending an officer to her son’s paintball party as an honorary guest. But, as CNN reports, the response was a lot bigger than she expected:

When the day of his party came, nothing could have prepared Braden for the surprise visit from his own all-star paintball team.

More than a dozen police officers, firefighters, the Police Chief and even Pekin Mayor John McCabe showed up at the paintball place, ready to square off. Some of them brought their kids. They split into two teams, with Braden, and battled it out.

The officers also pooled their money to bring presents, including a police station Lego set. The party even featured its own team mascot — the K9 officer’s dog.

This CNN video clip includes scenes of the officers, firefighters and their kids at Braden’s party. But if you watch to the end you’ll also see a surprising moment when the interviewer asks a detective about his own kids saying, “It’s tough being a cop right now…What do you tell your kids about being a cop?” The detective chokes up and apologizes for being unable to respond. The interview ends with the detective saying, “We are people, just like him— real struggles, real feelings and real families.”

Kudos to the Pekin, Illinois police and firefighters for going above and beyond for Braden and his family and for reminding everyone that, beneath the badge, first responders are good people who care about others.