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PHOTOS: Bergen Sheriff's 'Chief For Day' Thrills Ailing Kids, Veteran Cops

Fairview Chief Isabel, 4, takes the mini Sheriff's Department vehicle for a spin. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Teaneck Police Chief Glenn M. O'Reilly with Gianna Yepez, 7. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
"Chief For a Day" has become as important to the officer as it is to the youngsters. Photo Credit: Specials To Daily Voice
Bergen County Sheriff's Office "Chief" Lukasz Czerpak of Garfield with dad, Jack Czerpak, a county corrections officer. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Roy Brown Middle School welcoming Bergenfield Chief for a Day Jeremy Kravitz.
Roy Brown Middle School welcoming Bergenfield Chief for a Day Jeremy Kravitz. Video Credit: COURTESY: Bergenfield PD
Englewood Cliffs Police Chief Michael Cioffi with Alexandra, 6. "She's a little overwhelmed," mom Christina Theodorakos said. "It's a big crowd and event but she's excited." Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Leonia Chief Sophia, 21, with one of the department's officers. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
A young chief takes the helm leading his family to the Bergen County Courthouse Friday. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Paramus Chief Bella Clare had a brain tumor that caused seizures requiring brain surgery. She celebrated her recovery with Chief for a Day. "It's an outstanding day where you can bring a smile to a child's face," Chief Kenneth Ehrenberg said. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Paramus Police Department
Bella with her parents, right, and Chief Kenneth Ehrenberg and Deputy Chief Robert Guidetti. Ehrenberg thanked outreach officer Jimmy Teehan and the Sheriff's Department for putting the event together. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Paramus PD
"When I look back some day and look at highlights in my career I could talk about big cases and great arrests," said Fairview Chief Marty Kahn, with Isabel. "But there is nothing bigger and better than days like this." Photo Credit: Fairview PD
Fair Lawn Chief Glen Cauwels with Faraz Alvi, 15. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino, left, with Saddle Brook Police Chief Robert Kugler and Chief for a Day Jake Erickson, 14. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
The Saddle Brook VFW donated $500 to Erickson. Kugler said: "He got a day's pay right away." Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine

Some require oxygen and 'round-the-clock care. Others are in constant pain, though you'd never know it.

Yet for a few moments Friday morning, 30 ailing teens and young adults from across Bergen County -- not to mention dozens of veteran law enforcement officers -- had reason to smile.

Proudly displaying their shiny new badges, the youngsters participated in  Sheriff Michael Saudino's eighth annual "Chief for a Day" event.

"It doesn't get old for me -- and I don't think it does for any chiefs here," Saudino said as he surveyed a squad of dozens of area top cops and their honorary namesakes gathered on the steps of the Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack.

Saudino's own little chief for the day, 5-year-old Lukasz Czerpak of Garfield, was born with a form of polycistic kidney disease that requires kidney and liver transplants for him to survive.

"He's starting to understand more and more that he's got a condition," said dad Jack Czerpack, who's is in his seventh year as a county corrections officer. "He takes a lot of medication and that's a battle every day.

"But he's pretty much a normal child. He's a happy kid," Czerpack said.

Saudino made Jack's day even better by temporarily locking down the jail because the youngster wanted to see where his father works.

Pretty soon he was telling everyone that he was the new sheriff.

All of the participants began Friday with police escorts from their schools to their local departments, where each was sworn in as chief and then given a tour of headquarters.

The entourages then headed to the courthouse steps for a massive photo op before a full procession to lunch for the families and law enforcement officials.

"If you look around, you'll see some of the same faces and just as many smiles on police as the kids," Saudino told Daily Voice. "It enriches all of us for what we see on a daily basis. It's a positive thing and it feels good."

Fairview Police Chief Martin Kahn couldn't have agreed more.

"We just aren’t all about enforcing laws and locking up criminals," he said. "It brings other aspects of what police work and community policing are truly about.

"When I look back some day at highlights in my career I could talk about big cases and great arrests," Kahn said, "but there is nothing bigger and better than days like this -- days where you can reach out and touch a child’s life.

"It keeps you grounded as a person and humbles you."


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