For the first time in more than 10 years, the Renton Police Department participated in Chief for a Day, swearing in 8-year-old Marcos Martinez as “little chief” Thursday, Aug. 16 at the event that hosted 33 Washington state law enforcement agencies, and their little chiefs.
Chief for a Day is a program put on by the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission to celebrate children who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening or chronic illness.
Children receive a hand-tailored police uniform. At the event, Marcos was surprised by a booth featuring a poster honoring him, and a pile of gifts for both him and his family, including his two sisters.
Acting Renton Chief Ed VanValey said you could see the surprise on Marcos’ face when he saw the gifts. Everything was donation only. Many businesses offered gift certificates to the family for schools supplies, clothes and food. The Sounders donated a swag bag of Sounder’s gear for Marcos, who is a big soccer fan.
Lions Club and Renton Chamber of Commerce offered several gift cards and soccer ball, and other items, and Community Programs Coordinator Sandra Havlik said they were very generous.
The Return to Renton car show donated $1,000 to Marcos and his family, including taking them on a shopping trip to Walmart.
Many city departments, individuals and officers also donated to Marcos, including Sounders tickets and a Lionel Messi jersy. According to Renton Police Department, his favorite person is Lionel Messi, a professional soccer player who plays for Barcelona and the Argentina National Team.
One that was highlighted was a pig stuffed animal named “Bacon” that also doubled as a piggy bank. Havlik said Bacon had been placed throughout the department for people to give donations.
“Marcos fell in love with Bacon when he was at our station so we made sure to give it to him at the event. I think he was most excited about getting Bacon!” Havlik said in an email.
Washington state Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib spoke at the swearing in ceremony.
“Why do we call you chief? It’s because we see in you guys, those who have real courage, and real bravery,” Habib said. “We’ve noticed that you’ve had to fight harder, you’re fighting and winning. And you’re chief material.”
This was the culminating event for Marcos’ nomination as little chief. It began in April when the department first surprised Marcos at Kennydale Elementary School with the news.
Since then he has participated in a BBQ with Renton Police Department, and rode with acting Chief VanValey at the 2018 Renton River Days parade.
Marcos was born at only 23 weeks gestation, and doctors said he had a 20 percent chance of living. He has cerebral palsy, which affected movement on the left side of his body and resulted in cardiac arrests.
When he started seeing a physical therapist, he began to regain his strength. Now he has some pain in his left side, but has moved on to become a strong swimmer and passionate about soccer.
He said he will be a famous soccer player some day.
After the swearing in ceremony, where 32 children were sworn in and received their badge, they were able to enjoy different displays and demos from various Washington enforcement agencies.