PHILIPSBURG — It’s well-known around this community that Emily Whitehead’s favorite color is purple.
She added a little more of the color to her wardrobe on Thursday with a custom-made Canastota, N.Y., Police Department T-shirt, polo shirt and baseball cap.
The clothing was part of Emily’s new uniform. Officer Ed Blakely, an Osceola Mills native, drove to Philipsburg on Thursday to swear her in as a junior officer with his department, complete with an official badge.
“Do you promise to uphold the laws in the state of Pennsylvania and in New York if you come to visit?” Blakely asked. “I do,” Emily replied. “Do you promise to eat your vegetables?” “I do.”
And with that, she was official. “You know what we do? We absolutely take care of our own,” Blakely said of the department. “And now you’re in the family.”
Blakely then taught Emily to salute, lifting a hand to his forehead. He said that he salutes the chief of police, his superior, every day.
“You’re the superior officer today because you’re a lot tougher ... than I am,” Blakely said.
Emily, 7, returned home June 2 after being in the hospital for 90 days battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
She was the first child in the world to be treated with her own genetically engineered T cells, a procedure that may influence the way other cancer patients are treated.
Today, she is cancer-free and has received an outpouring of support from admirers near and far.
She recently returned to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for a checkup, and all the tests look good, her family said.
Blakely, a Philipsburg-Osceola Area High School graduate, heard about Emily’s story from his sister and began following her progress on Facebook.
“I know what you’re going through. I’ve seen it first-hand and it’s brutal,” he told Emily’s parents, Tom and Kari.
Blakely lost two members of his family to cancer last year. His mother, JoAnne, died in June 2011, and his wife, Christine, in August.
“It’s more than just the love of a daughter, the love of a wife ... it’s everything,” he said.
Emily’s picture will be hung in the Canastota Police Department office, located just east of Syracuse in upstate New York.
“If we see your picture going out there, you’re our motivation,” Blakely told Emily as he presented her with numerous badges.
“They teach us in the police academy that no matter how you feel, you keep on going, keep fighting,” he said.
After the mini-ceremony, Emily showed Blakely some photos and mementos from her time in the hospital, including the more than 300 stuffed animals that she has accumulated.
Returning the favor, Emily gave him a purple rubber bracelet with the words “I believe” on it.
Blakely is a military veteran with a few tattoos on his arm, hidden under his uniform sleeve.
He said he was inspired to get another with the bracelet’s phrase.
“They all have tattoos,” he said of his past soldier colleagues.
“But if you do get a tattoo, it’s got to mean something,” he said as he slid the bracelet over his wrist.
“There was no doubt that (my world) was rocked,” he later said. “I did stop believing and something like this shows you it’s worth it (to believe).”
Heather Hottle can be reached at 231-4636.