MARYSVILLE — Lots of kids dream of being in law enforcement when they grow up. For Lucas Kerker, his dream came true at six years old when he was honored as an Ohio State Highway Patrol junior trooper on Friday at Mill Valley Elementary.
Unlike other kids, Lucas has Ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T), a rare neurodegenerative disease that affects only 500 children in the United States and has no cure. He was diagnosed with the disease when he was three and a half.
Captain Dan Leigh, of the Marysville Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, presents six-year-old Lucas Kerker with his junior state trooper commission at a ceremony at Mill Valley Elementary on Friday, Jan. 10. Lucas, standing next to his special education aide Ann Musto, has a neurodegenerative disorder called Ataxia-telangiectasia and dreams of becoming a state trooper. JOURNAL-TRIBUNE PHOTO | TAYLOR EVANS)
“Lucas is a very happy six-year-old,” said Lucas’s mother Amy Kerker. “(He) runs, plays, loves to be with his friends.”
A-T causes children to lose the ability to walk and makes communication difficult. According to Kerker, many children with A-T are in a wheelchair by the age of 10. The A-T Children’s project website states that children with the disease often die from respiratory failure in their 20’s and rarely live into their 40’s.
The Kerkers participate in a 5k every year to raise funds to find a cure.
“Drug companies do not aggressively look for a cure because it’s so rare,” Kerker said. “That’s why we try to fund the research, to find a cure.”
The Marysville Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol learned about Lucas when his aunt sent an email to the general headquarters about Lucas and his dream of becoming a state trooper.
The email was then passed to Lieutenant Molly Clemens. She arranged a ceremony for Lucas to become a junior state trooper with in conjunction with Mill Valley staff, where Lucas attends kindergarten, and his mother.
“Lieutenant Clemens has been wonderful,” Kerker said. “She called me, called the school and arranged all of this.”
The ceremony was held Friday afternoon during Lucas’s class, right after snack time. His parents, including his father, James, were in attendance. In addition to Clemens, Trooper Kathy Durham, Staff Lieutenant Dan Springs, Captain Dan Leigh and Trooper Ryan Stanley, dressed as OSP mascot Teddy Trooper, came to the ceremony.
Clemens says the Ohio State Highway patrol “cares about the community” and they are there for people in need.
“If someone needs something from us, we’re going to be there for them,” Clemens said. “In this instance, we were truly honored that we were even asked, or told about this story. To be able to do something for that little boy and to allow him to be able to reach his dream, that’s a privilege of ours to be able to do that.”
During the ceremony, Judge Michael Grigsby gave Lucas the trooper’s oath, which he then signed. Lucas received the trooper’s commission, given to him by Leigh. He was also presented with all the gear a trooper would need, including uniform (a t-shirt with the OSP logo), badge, Stetson hat, whistle, toy patrol car from Durham’s personal collection and a stuffed Teddy Trooper.
“Every State Trooper has a Stetson,” Clemens said. “I definitely wanted him to have that.”
The ceremony came on the heels of Lucas’s birthday. He turned six on Thursday.
“We’re very grateful and I’m sure this is very exciting for him, especially since it’s near his birthday,” Kerker said.
Clemens notes that law enforcement is a hard job, and the OSP is appreciative of Lucas’s interest in the field.
“Everybody should have the opportunity to reach their dreams and law enforcement is not the easiest career to choose, and when you’re choosing that at six years old, and that’s something you really want to do, we’re going to support them on that,” Clemens said. “It’s a hard job, sometimes a thankless job, and we appreciate Lucas’s support out of this.”
For more information about Ataxia-telangiectasia or to make a donation in Lucas’s name, visit the A-T Children’s Project at www.atcp.org.