LEHMAN TWP. — Nathan Welby was sworn in as the newest honorary Lehman Township police officer Monday night before a packed house at the township municipal building.
Nathan, 6, was recently diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. His family is making long trips to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for chemotherapy, followed by radiation treatments.
His parents, Jeff and Jennifer Welby of Dallas, said “Nate” is always playing cops with his brother, Brian, 8.
And Monday night, thanks to the thoughtfulness of Lehman Township Police Officer Alaisha Sherwood, who spearheaded the idea, “Officer Nate” raised his right hand and took the oath administered by township Supervisor Dave Sutton.
A group of people attending wore light blue T-shirts with “Nathan’s Knights” across the front. Knights represents the Lake-Lehman School District where Nate’s mother teaches and the light blue with navy blue lettering was chosen to represent the Dallas School District where Nate attends school.
The new “junior police officer” was given a uniform, a badge and patches from several Luzerne County police departments. State Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, and state Rep. Karen Boback, R-Harveys Lake, presented Nate with certificates from the state Senate and House of Representatives.
In addition to Lehman Township, other departments represented included Lake Silkworth, Idetown, Back Mountain Regional Fire, Harveys Lake, Wilkes-Barre City, Pennsylvania State Police, Factoryville Fire Department and the Luzerne County Correctional Facility. All presented Nate with patches from their respective departments.
Nate was dressed for the occasion, arriving right on time dressed in a police S.W.A.T. uniform.
“He didn’t know where we were going tonight,” said his mother, Jennifer. “He dresses like that all the time.”
Jennifer and Jeff said they never expected such a turnout for Monday’s ceremony.
“I can’t believe how many people are here,” Jennifer said. “There are a lot of family and friends here and people we never expected.”
Jennifer said Nate has been doing well with his treatments lately. She said he was diagnosed about a year ago with brain cancer.
“He really doesn’t understand the seriousness of it all,” Jeff said. “But as far as tonight, I’m sure he loves it. It really is overwhelming.”
Nate’s grandfather, Jim Welby, serves as township zoning officer.
Officer Sherwood has been with Lehman Township for two and a half years. She said Jim Welby always talked about his grandson and how much he wanted to be a police officer.
So Sherwood went to Lehman Township Police Chief Howard Kocher and Sgt. Mark Liparela and pitched the idea. She said they were in favor of making Nate a junior officer.
“About a month ago, we took Nate for a ride in the cruiser and he loved it,” Sherwood said. “We let him turn on the lights and the siren. He even locked his brother in the back seat. I told Nate he could be my partner anytime.”
Sherwood said she could tell the cruiser ride meant a lot to Nate.
“It meant a lot to me too,” she said.
When the ceremony began, Sutton had Nate stand on a step-stool to take the oath.
“Do you swear to discharge and perform your duties as a Lehman Township junior police officer?” Sutton asked. Nate responded, “Yes.” And then Sutton asked Nate if he would like “to become a Lehman Township Police Officer tonight” and Nate’s response was an even louder, “Yes.”
At that moment, the crowd of about 50 people cheered and applauded for Junior Officer Nathan Welby.
Boback said the certificate she presented is given to those who “display bravery in the face of adversity.”
Baker added, “We’re all standing beside you, Nate, and we are fighting with you.”
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.