It was clear that Ben Brewer didn't know exactly how to handle the demands of sudden celebrity.
Brewer, a 14-year-old student from Thunder Ridge Middle School, stood in front of a thicket of television cameras and fielded questions from the multiple reporters who gathered in the City Council Chambers at the Aurora Municipal Center on Dec. 2. As Brewer offered straightforward and earnest replies to the media, dozens of officers for the Aurora Police Department waited nearby, eager to have a chance to shake his hand and say hello.
Brewer had been an official honorary officer with the Aurora Police Department for only a matter of minutes, but he was already serving as a role model for his newfound family.
"You're showing the rest of us what courage means," said Aurora Police Chief Nicholas Metz during the official ceremony naming Brewer as an honorary member of the department. Metz added that Brewer had already become a "leader" for all of the gathered officers. "You are an example to us."
Brewer earned that status during the past 12 years in a fight for his very survival. At the age of 2, Brewer was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma, one of the most common forms of childhood cancer. Since that initial diagnosis, the cancer has relapsed multiple times and Brewer has been in and out of treatment. Where most adolescents worry about homework, first crushes and what they want to be when they grow up, Brewer has been focused simply on survival.
He's staged that struggle with focus, determination and a constant humility, qualities that garnered the attention and admiration of members of Cops Fighting Cancer, a nonprofit dedicated to providing financial, practical and emotional support to Colorado cancer patients and their families. On Dec. 2, Brewer became the sixth recipient of the organization's Honorary Police Officer honor, a status that also carries duties as an ambassador to the rest of the community. Brewer will play that role during an upcoming "Long Blue Line" event at the Children's Hospital Colorado .
The formal ceremony saw Aurora Police officers offering emotional testimony to Brewer's strength, courage and determination. Brewer, donning a blue police cap that served as a stark contrast to his button-up dress shirt and slacks, sat surrounded by friends and family.
"As police officers, we face many dangerous situations … We run towards the danger and face (it) head-on," said Aurora Police Officer James Seneca, a cancer survivor who founded Cops Fighting Cancer in 2003. "Our friend Ben has some of these similar traits … (He's) facing a beast head-on … We all need to sit back and learn from this very special young man."
Officer Seneca and Chief Metz weren't the only ones to speak to Brewer's strength and determination during the ceremony. Ben's mother, Sarah Brewer, paused at the podium before launching into a heartfelt tribute to her son, one that praised his ability to "find joy in the everyday," to "live in the moment," to want to help people no matter the circumstances.
She praised the work of the Aurora Police Department and Cops Fighting Cancer. Later, she spoke about the consistent support of the staff at Thunder Ridge and the rest of the Cherry Creek School District, pointing to the teachers who've made home and hospital visits during her son's treatment.
But her greatest praise came for Ben.
"You tell me all the time that you're not a hero … That couldn't be further from the truth," Sarah Brewer said, addressing her son directly. "I've learned so much from you … It is my honor and my privilege to be (your) mother. No matter what, I will be here by your side," she added, as she and her son wiped away tears at their two posts across the room from each other.
The formal swearing-in ceremony followed the emotional tributes. Ben Brewer came to the front of the room, raised his right hand and swore to protect and serve the Aurora community. After shaking hands with dozens of officers, he turned his attention to the cameras and the reporters. With his mother close by, Brewer handled the attention with a silent strength and a clear humility. He wasn't there to brag about his accomplishments. He didn't seek the limelight.
Instead, he offered simple insights, eager to get back to mingling with his immediate family and his newfound brothers and sisters in the Aurora Police Department.
"I'm not sure what to say," he admitted. "I'm very excited."
Read more . . .
A Local Teen Battling Cancer for the 5th Time is Sworn-In as an Honorary Aurora Police Officer
'Radioactive boy' becomes Aurora Police officer - 9News
Teen fighting cancer named honorary Aurora Police officer; Ben Brewer fighting Stage IV Neuroblastoma -7News
14-Year-Old Boy Is The Newest Officer With The Aurora Police Deparment - CBS4
Aurora police swear in honorary teen cop battling cancer - Fox31