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4-Year-Old Battling Cancer Is Ossining Police Chief For A Day

Gio Toribio, 4, was police chief for the day Monday in Ossining. With him is police Chief Kevin Sylvester. Photo Credit: Contributed
Gio Toribio, 4, was police chief for the day in Ossining Monday. Photo Credit: Tania Wilcher Contreras/Facebook
Gio Toribio, police chief for the day in Ossining, at his desk with mom, Lauren; dad, Juan; and his little brothers. Photo Credit: Shelly Ellington Farrell/Facebook

OSSINING, N.Y. -- He may have needed a chair to stand on so he could be sworn in as Ossining’s police chief for the day, but little Gio Toribio was clearly the biggest man in the room.

Being the center of attention in a roomful of family, friends and local officials might have been a little overwhelming for most kids, but the 4-year-old seemed to be taking it all in stride.

Gio, an outpatient at the Marie Ferrari’s Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, has been battling cancer, so swearing to something that contained the words “courage” and “character” comes naturally.

Wearing a child-sized version of Chief Kevin Sylvester’s uniform -- complete with a tie, arm patch and shiny, black shoes – Gio shook the hand of a beaming Mayor Victoria Gearity after the ceremony.

Gearity read a proclamation declaring Tuesday, Nov. 15, as Gio Toribio Day, telling the tot how grateful everyone was to have him as part of the community.

It read: “Whereas, Gio Toribio, has shown tenacity and strength through great challenges and teaches us to greet each day with a smile and to be Gio strong and whereas, his spirit inspires his family, the police department and his community to fight for a cure for childhood cancer … We proclaim Tuesday, Nov. 15, as Gio Toribio Day.

When asked what he thought of that, Gio shyly nodded and said, simply: “Good.”

Town Supervisor Dana Levenberg then presented Gio with a certificate. Standing by were village Trustees John Codman and Manuel Quezada.

As those gathered snapped pictures with their phones, and wiped away a tear or two, Sylvester pinned a shiny, new badge on the youngster’s starched white shirt and told him: “This means you’re the boss.”

Then, with a grin, Sylvester stage-whispered to Chief Toribio: “I want a raise, and a car, and you have to take me to lunch, OK?”

One of Gio’s first official acts was to banish the crowd from Sylvester’s office so he and the chief could “get to work chasing the bad guys.”

Later, he rode with Sylvester to Nelson Park on Washington Avenue where he participated in a “search” for an officer who needed “help.”

The demo came complete with police dogs, a SWAT team, firefighters, emergency medical crews and a helicopter.

“Gio was a little quiet at the ceremony, but as the day went on he brightened up to the point where we could hardly contain him,” Sylvester said.

Gio’s dad, Juan, works for the town’s Parks Department.

His mom, Lauren, said Gio was so excited when he saw the helicopter. "It really made his day," she added.

Sylvester praised Sgt. Pete Carpenter for organizing the whole thing, saying that he himself was just “an actor, being the face of the department.”

Afterwards, everyone returned to headquarters for a pizza party and an "awesome" cake made by Ossining baker Gina Gray of GG’s Cake, Gio's mom said.

“The little guy was so excited that I don’t think he’s going to sleep tonight,” said the chief, adding: “I may need a nap myself.”

Gio has also gotten to meet members of the Mets and the Jets, his mom said.

Everyone who meets him, loves him," she said.

Gio, who Sylvester said is “always smiling,” became interested in the police department after bumping into several officers at a local coffee shop.

This isn’t the last thing Sylvester said he wants to do with Gio, mentioning an upcoming firemen’s parade.

“He needs a big network,” Sylvester said. “but he’s handling it all  like a champ."

To see a video of Gio’s swearing in, click here.

To contribute to a campaign to help his family with medical expenses, click here.

To visit Lauren's Facebook page, click here.

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