Police to grow beards for child cancer patient

MARTINS FERRY — The Martins Ferry Police Department is allowing its officers to go without shaving their beards for $10 a week this month and in December to raise money for Leo Zambori and his family.

Chief John McFarland also is challenging other departments and people in general to do the same.

Leo, 5, is a kindergarten student at Martins Ferry Elementary School who is undergoing treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia. He is the son of Natalie and Chad Zambori.

The family has held fundraisers of their own including selling T-shirts with “Tougher Than Leukemia” printed on them.

Leo was diagnosed April 6 and has been receiving treatments at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, which he will have to do for about the next three years.

To show their support and to help with the costs related to the treatment, McFarland said the department wanted to help out.

“Rather than participating in a big national ‘No Shave’ event where we don’t know where our money is going, we do our own thing here,” McFarland said. “We try to help out local families and the little ones who need help.”

McFarland said his officers normally are not allowed to have facial hair while working, so being permitted to do so for a good cause will likely be welcomed. He added last year’s “no shave” fundraiser benefited Hope for Hines, which is for child cancer patient Hines Rotriga. During a visit to the Martins Ferry Police Department, Leo got the chance to ride in an SUV and visit with McFarland, who also gave the boy police patches, magnets and other goodies. Leo noted one of his favorite cartoons is Paw Patrol.

“We’re grateful for all the support and for the support from the police department. Leo was just super excited to come here and see Mac. We’re thankful for all of the support from the community. We’re going on eight months now since his diagnosis which is crazy to me — because it still feels new to me. It still feels like the first day every day,” Natalie Zambori said. “We’re getting there but he’ll still be in treatment. His end date of chemo is June 9, 2019. That’s the goal date.”

Zambori said right now Leo receives chemotherapy every 10 days via an IV into his spine.

“He’s made it through the roughest part of the treatment. Once he gets into maintenance he will take oral chemo every day for two years,” she said. “Then he will have monthly chemo through his port (in his chest). It will be better than going once a week.”

Zambori said all the events supporting Leo and little acts of kindness have kept her son distracted and happy.

“If you would have told me in April that he would be able to be happy and experience good things through this, I wouldn’t have believed anybody. He’s really been able to have a lot of good experiences because of the kindness of the people we know and even the people we don’t know. He gets cards in the mail from all over,” she said.