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Old Saybrook Officers Wearing Shorts to Help 4-Year-Old Battle Cancer

Old Saybrook Police are going casual for a good cause – they’re wearing “Shorts4Sean.”

The department’s goal is to raise money for 4-year-old Sean MacDonnell, an Old Saybrook local who was diagnosed with Stage 3 of a highly aggressive form of soft-tissue cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma.

Only 250 children are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.

MacDonnell and his family have been traveling to Boston two to five days per week, often paying for the commute and hotels. So to help offset the cost, the Old Saybrook Police Department launched “Shorts4Sean.”

Officers upgraded their summer uniform to include shorts, polos and baseball caps. But they have to donate $5 a day to wear any piece of it.

“It is completely unimaginable to have a 4-year-old going through the battle that he is going through,” Chief Michael Spera said.

He prides Old Saybrook on being a tight-knit community so when he heard about MacDonnell, who lives just blocks from the police station, he felt compelled to help.

“We’re fathers ourselves here, we’re mothers ourselves here, in the department,” Spera said.

MacDonnell is currently going through an intense treatment plan of chemotherapy and radiation for the next 10 to 12 months.

“Day in, day out, the daily grind of this experience, he’s the strongest and the bravest,” said Sean’s dad, George MacDonnell.

While the diagnosis was terrifying to learn about, MacDonnell said doctors are optimistic for a full recovery because Rhabdomyosarcoma responds well to treatment.

“My father who is also a cancer patient here at [Massachusetts General Hospital] said, ‘You know, if this were you or I, we’d be feeling really down… but he’s just plugging along like a happy 4-year-old,'” MacDonnell said.

Spera said the police union is matching every dollar officers pay. Plus officers are accepting donations at the department and online at www.shorts4sean.com and are asking other businesses to participate too.

“It fills our heart,” MacDonnell said of the gesture, adding the family is grateful to the entire community for their support and cannot wait to meet these officers. Sean said he’s excited to see their squad cars because “they go really fast!”

This is the first time police have ever held a fundraiser for an individual person. It’s also the first time their uniform has ever looked like this. Spera is hoping people will ask them about it, learn Sean’s story and help, too.

The fundraiser runs until Aug. 31.

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