To 11-year-old Drake Price, riding in the front seat of a SWAT vehicle bigger than a Humvee, meeting seven law enforcement officials all at once and getting handcuffed is not scary.
Good thing, because thanks to the DuPage County sheriff's office, that was his Tuesday.
What's scary to this kid who has his heart set on being a cop is something that would scare practically anyone -- having a brain tumor.
The Warsaw, Indiana, preteen is wrapping up 30 specialized radiation sessions at the Northwestern Medicine Chicago Proton Center in Warrenville to treat a tumor discovered in February. The tumor was the size of a baseball, and although benign not cancerous, it caused Drake to suffer a month of headaches and three strokes in one day, said his mother, Charity Price.
"It was attached to everything critical up in his brain," Price said. "It's been up there probably his whole life."
Drake said he thinks of the tumor as "scary and interesting." To fight it, he's endured two surgeries, months of hospital stays and 25 proton radiation treatments, which target energy directly into the tumor to kill it while sparing healthy tissue.
The treatments are painless and the proton center works to make kids comfortable with a playroom, stickers, scavenger hunts, a wagon to ride from the lobby back to the radiation room and even bubble parades, said Aileen Maxwell, child life specialist. But it's still a scary proposition for young patients, who often come from out of state and lose their routine and familiar surroundings.
Maxwell has brought Disney characters to the proton center since it opened in 2010 to greet young movie-loving patients, but for Drake, that wouldn't cut it. So she dashed off a letter to roughly 15 West suburban police departments asking them to pay a visit and send a patch to Drake. The response his been an amazing testament to the generosity of law enforcement, she said.
Drake has gotten visits from the Bensenville, Carol Steam, Elgin, Glendale Heights, Lisle, Warrenville, West Chicago and Illinois State Police departments, among others, since he and his family came to the proton center Aug. 7.
The visits, Drake says, take away his fear and are just plain "exciting." That's because Drake has aspired to be a cop since the first time anyone asked what he wants to be when he grows up.
"He's a selfless kid. He likes helping people all the time," his mother said. The "fast cars and guns" given to police make the work seem desirable, too, she said.
On Tuesday, Drake got to see some big and fast law enforcement equipment a few hours after receiving his 15-minute proton treatment.
DuPage County Undersheriff Frank Bibbiano and six others, including special operations members, a sergeant and former SWAT commanders, stopped by the proton center with an SUV, a Humvee and a massive tank-like vehicle. They named Drake a junior deputy for the day.
As Drake raised his right hand over an honorary certificate, in the presence of his mom, dad and two of his four siblings, Bibbiano swore him in with an oath to "help his friends and family."
Drake then took a spin as a passenger in the Humvee and the tank-like personnel transport vehicle, which is called an MRAP, meaning it is mine-resistant and offers ambush protection. Inside, Bibbiano said Drake asked lots of questions and enjoyed sounding the horn and sirens.
The proton center's outreach to police has done more than occupy Drake's time. It also boosted his collection of police badges, which he began seeking when his tumor was discovered, to more than 2,500, his family says.
Things like that are important, child life specialist Maxwell notes.
"My job is to make sure that they still get to be kids," she said. "And that their sense of normalcy continues."