Boy battling rare illness named 'Chief for a Day' in New Jersey

FAIR LAWN, New Jersey (WABC) -- A 13-year-old boy battling a rare illness was honored as "Chief for a Day" in New Jersey Thursday, courtesy the Fair Lawn Police Department.

Christian Santucci, a student at Memorial Middle School, where the event was held, suffers from a form of pediatric Leukodystrophy called POLR3A.

"It's a progressive scenario and we're just trying to make all these days wonderful for Christian," said Dr. Jonathan Hesney of Fair Lawn schools.

His younger twin brothers, Angelo and Stefan, have also been diagnosed with Leukodystrophy/POLR3A. They and youngest brother Marios were appointed as Captain For A Day to serve alongside Chief Christian.

"Chief for a Day is an inspirational program designed to brighten the lives who are battling chronic illnesses by giving them an up close look at police work," Fair Lawn Police Sgt. Brian Metzler said.

With Batman in attendance, Mayor Kurt Peluso and Fair Lawn Police Chief Glen Cauwels swore Christian in as "Chief for a Day."

"Chief Cauwels and our Community Policing Unit, with the assistance of Memorial Middle School faculty, have gone to great lengths to see that this day will leave Christian, his family, and all attendees with a lifetime of beautiful memories," police Officer Michael O'Brien said.

The swearing in was followed by brief words and presentations from guest speakers, and a parade of emergency service and military vehicles (and the Batmobile) from the school to the nearby park along with police motorcycle units and New Jersey Transit Police Pipes and Drums.

"This year's Chief for a Day event is a very special one for Chief Cauwels and our unit," police Officer Gerard Graziano said. "We are honoring a brave young warrior."

A host of emergency service agencies participated, as well as the National Guard, New Jersey State Police and Drug Enforcement Agency.

"We have so many departments here to honor him, as well as the National Guard came," Fair Lawn Mayor Kurt Peluso said.

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