Adam Brodersen was absorbed with his iPad in the back seat of his parents' car Wednesday morning when his mother stopped the car.
"Read the sign," Susan Brodersen called. He looked up. The sign said, "Buffalo Grove Police Headquarters."
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Adam, bewildered, had thought he was tagging along to his 3-year-old sister Olivia's dentist appointment. But his parents, Susan and John, told him he had a surprise in store -- he was going to get to be a police officer for a whole day.
"His mind went blank," Susan said.
Adam, 7, was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a defect that leaves only one of his heart's ventricles in use. For a boy who has undergone three major surgeries in the early stages of his life and who dreams of growing up to be a police officer, this meant the world.
"I'm going to catch the bad guys!" he exclaimed.
Inside the station, the Buffalo Grove police were waiting for him, smiling. A navy blue police uniform with gold patches was laid out on a table.
Adam donned the miniature outfit, a wide grin plastered on his face. Police Cmdr. Jim Newton snapped an award ribbon bar on Adam's chest, demonstrating outstanding police work. A holster with a pair of plastic handcuffs hugged his hips.
After meeting his partner for the day, Mike Martin, Adam strolled down to the meeting room to be sworn in before his parents, his first-grade teacher, Buffalo Grove officers and others.
Buffalo Grove Police Chief Steve Casstevens directed Adam to raise his right hand to be sworn in and promoted to sergeant. Adam raised his left.
"The other one," Casstevens said. Adam laughed off the mistake with the crowd, switched hands and took his oath.
"I promise to protect my partner, Mike, catch bad guys and be nice to the citizens of Buffalo Grove," Adam declared.
The crowd applauded. Adam smiled as he was handed his police ID badge, a dark blue police hat and a gift bag containing a notebook and toy police car.
It was time to hit the road. To Adam's amazement, a Northern Illinois Police Alarm System BearCat -- a bulletproof SWAT vehicle -- rolled up to the station. He climbed in with Buffalo Grove officer Derek Hawkins, who explained what everything does, and then the duo drove to Addison in the Bear Cat for SWAT training.
After lunch, Adam returned to the Buffalo Grove police's shooting range, patrolled the village with Officer Martin and made an arrest in a simulated robbery.
Susan Brodersen isn't sure where Adam's fascination with law enforcement stems from. It could have been the police Legos he collected or his tendency to playfully handcuff his sister.
But a letter he wrote months ago in Dana Woods' first-grade class at Paddock School in Palatine, saying it was his ambition to be a police officer, was the first domino that led to Wednesday's event.
"The first time we saw this letter, it was hanging on the wall at school," Susan said. "We posted it on Facebook. John works with a woman whose daughter works with the (Buffalo Grove) police department and shared the story."
The police department then reached out to the family and put the whole day aside for Adam.
"He just wants to catch the bad guys," said teacher Dana Woods, who was there to watch Adam's day. "He'll remember this forever."
"It leaves me speechless," Susan Brodersen said. "We've come a long way with trying to get him out there and explaining what the heart condition is like. Something as special as becoming a police officer to Adam is very special to us."