ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - A city program where Orlando police officers mentor at-risk children has taken a different turn, after one of the kids participating in the program was diagnosed with cancer. Now, a boat racing team is fueling a family with extra support during this holiday season.
They’re called the Dueling Dragons, where both cops and kids paddle in sync, trying to be the first to win a dragon boat race.
“It’s a team sport, if one person is off, it throws everyone off. It’s also chemistry,” said 16-year-old Vionn Welcome.
He says he and his brother, Vance, had been competing for years, until recently, when officers noticed something wasn’t right with Vance.
“We didn’t know he was sick that day," said Orlando Police Officer Marlon McClain. "He just slept but not 'complaining.'”
Doctors diagnosed 15-year-old Vance with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and acute kidney failure.
“Going through this kind of thing is pretty challenging," Vance explained, "getting shots, surgeries and stuff like that.”
But he’s not dealing with this alone. Police officers visit Vance in the hospital and help provide food and other items.
“We try to give him as much support as we can,” said Officer McClain. “It just breaks your heart he’s dealing with this at such a young age."
Even their team shirts now promote support for cancer survivors.
“This symbol for lymphoma cancer and that’s on every single one of our shirts and that will be there forever. They’ve made him the new face of our program by putting this logo here.”
But for Vionn, this is much more than a logo. He plans to donate his bone marrow to his brother.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow, knowing it will make or break him. Hopefully, it will help him. Slightly nervous, it’s something I’ve never done before.”
But he says keeping up with Dragon boat racing has made him stronger both physically and mentally.
“They have helped so much, not just the program but the individual officers.” Vance say. “It really helps me, helps to have a goal."
“We just want him to get better and start paddling with us again,” McClain added.
Vance and Vionn’s mother, Adrianne, says she takes it day by day.
“It’s very difficult. We try and juggle as much as we can. We have our good days and bad days. Positivity is the main thing. We try to stay positive.”
A new perspective on life, thanks to help from some Dueling Dragons.
“This holiday, be thankful for every minute. You just never know.”
Vance will undergo his bone marrow transplant in February. To help the family with medical expenses a Go Fund Me Account has been set up here.