Each day, JourneyCare social workers meet with patients to discuss their needs and goals, provide support and reassurance and coordinate community resources that might be needed.
But sometimes social workers also take on the role of “fairy godparents,” helping make dreams come true for patients and their families.
This year, JourneyCare Pediatric Nurse Miriam Berman and Social Worker Lindsay Wooster helped do just that for 6-year-old patient Madison Pruitt of Chicago.
Diagnosed in April 2015 with a rare form of muscular cancer, Madison shared with Berman that she wanted to be a police officer when she grew up “because you get to protect people,” the little girl said.
With the Chicago Police Department’s Gresham District Police Station located two blocks from Madison’s South Side home, Berman enlisted Wooster’s help to contact the precinct and ask if an officer could stop by and speak to Madison about her dreams.
When Sgt. Ernest Spradley received their call, he had a different idea.
“I said, ‘Oh no, no, no,’” he told WLS-TV in an interview. “We’ll do a little something better than that.”
Initially, Spradley, Berman and Wooster hoped to have Madison visit the precinct, participate in a roll call and be part of a ride along. But Madison became too ill to attend. That’s when the police brought the roll call to Madison. More than 70 police officers showed up at her door, accompanied by patrol horses, K-9 dogs, SWAT team members and an armored vehicle.
“I kind of was anticipating we might be able to set up a little meet and greet for Madison, perhaps with one officer,” recalled Wooster. “I never imagined that it would be this much. It was pretty incredible for her.”
New Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson was on hand to award her a medal of valor and name her an honorary police officer, complete with a uniform, police cap and personalized badge. The medal of valor was donated by an unnamed lieutenant still on the force.
“You’re a brave little girl and you are the reason why we do what we do … you’re our hero,” Johnson told Madison in a moment that was captured by newspaper photographers and TV cameras at the celebration.
Madison’s experience in becoming an honorary police officer received media attention across the country. During this, JourneyCare team members worked closely with the family to ensure they were not overwhelmed and could focus on Madison.
Five days later, Madison died peacefully at home, surrounded by her family.
“We are proud of Miriam and Lindsay for helping make this little girl’s dream come true, and appreciative of the Chicago Police Department for going above and beyond,” JourneyCare Chief Operating Officer Kelly Fischer said. “We hope that through the media coverage, people were able to gain greater insight into what hospice is all about, which includes helping make a little girl smile … and that’s exactly what we do every day.”