By Reggie Ellis

Either directly or indirectly, cancer seems to affect everyone’s life. It affected the entire community of Farmersville when the disease claimed one its finest officers and one of its bravest people.

Officer Robert Vasquez worked for the Farmersville Police Department for more than 12 years. He was hard but fair, knowing when to take the law literally and when to interpret the spirit of the law. He had a strong presence felt throughout the department and the community, a true professional who had earned their respect.

In 2002 he began to notice fever blisters, which ended up being malignant cancer. But the dedicated officer continued to work up until the cancer began to affect his speech. His battle with cancer was a rallying point in 2003 when the entire police department raised $4,000 at “Shave the Brave,” a fund-raiser for the Wish Upon A Star foundation which grants requests for children afflicted with high-risk or terminal illnesses. Officers each ask for donations from the community and then have their heads shaved to show their solidarity for the children affected by cancer. It was the first year of the event in the Central Valley, held at the Visalia Convention Center, and raised more than $53,000

“As law enforcement we are public figures and role models in the community,” Sgt. Mike Marquez said. “This disease affects hundreds of children each year and we can set a good example by getting involved and supporting this cause.”

Vasquez died on Sept. 15, 2004. The Farmersville Police Department will again participate in Shave the Brave, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sept. 10, just five days before the one-year anniversary of his death.

“It hits very close to home for this department,” Marquez said.

Shave the Brave will be held in Granite Park, located at 4000 N. Cedar Ave. between Ashland and Dakota in Fresno. The goal is for each officer to raise $1,000. To donate to Wish Upon A Star on behalf of the Farmersville Police Department, call Sgt. Marquez at 747-0321. Other local departments include the Farmersville Fire Department, 747-0791; Exeter Police Department, 592-3103; and Lindsay Fire Department, 562-5111.

Wish Upon A Star

Wish Upon A Star is a non-profit, law enforcement effort designed to grant wishes for children afflicted with high-risk and terminal illnesses. Since its inception in March 1982, the program has granted wishes to more than 1,000 children.

According to the website, “The delight the children experience is so profound in many cases as to actually trascend the illness, allowing them a physical improvement that is often substantiated by medical tests. While such an improvement is temporary, it does demonstrate that the human spirit, given a chance, can soar. As for the parents of these children, people who have been under great emotional and financial stress, the opportunity to join with their children in enjoying the happiness of these moments is a priceless gift in itself.”

For many parents these moments become comforting memories.”

Wish Upon A Star operates in a quiet manner, without fanfare or media coverage of the wishes it grants out of respect for the privacy of the children and their families.

The program is specifically for California children. Most often, children are referred to the program by medical staff Chidren’s Hospital of Central Valley in Madera. A statewide network of law enforcement personnel and community volunteers allows Wish Upon A Star to operate quickly, regardless of a child’s location or circumstance. It also allows us to work efficiently, with one central office and a bare minimum of paid staff.

Wish Upon A Star is funded strictly through donations. For more information on Wish Upon A Star visit their website at www.wishuponastar.org or call 1-800-821-6805. The following public safety and military agencies will be participating in Fresno this year.

Ambulance Companies

  • Mariposa- Mercy Medical
  • Visalia- AMR Mobole Life Support

Law Enforcment

  • Farmersville Police Department
  • Exeter Police Departmetn
  • Tulare County Probation Department
  • Califronia Higway Partol
  • Visalia Police Department
  • Porterville Police Department
  • Tulare Police Department
  • Lindsay Police Department
  • Kingsubrg Police Department
  • Madera Police Department and Exploreers
  • Woodlake Police Department
  • Colvis Police Department

Fire Departments

  • Farmersville Fire Department
  • Lindsay Fire Department
  • Hanford City Fire Department
  • Kingsburg Fire Department
  • Kings County Fire- Armona Station
  • Tulare Fire Department
  • Visalia Fire Department
  • TulareĀ  County Fire Department

Military

  • Air National Guard
  • NAS- Lemoore- Federal Fire Department
  • Army Recruiting- Madera
  • Navy Marine Recruiting- Madera

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