When Lieutenant John McGrorty of the 102nd Precinct noticed in early 2007 that his four-year-old son Matthew had a distended belly, he and his wife brought the boy to the doctor, who said the words that no parent wants to hear - something was wrong.
After some testing, it was determined in April of that year that Matthew had Stage 4 Hepatoblastoma, or liver cancer.
McGrorty and his wife Carol, a schoolteacher, were told the condition was very rare.
“One child in every 1.5 million born will develop [the disease],” McGrorty told The Courier. “So Matt was literally one in a million.”
The McGrortys brought Matthew to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York, where he underwent treatment, including chemotherapy.
“His favorite thing was his DVD player,” said his dad.
During that time, a blood drive was organized, said McGrorty. Usually, he said, between 50 to 100 pints are collected, but that day, 325 people donated blood.
“Every pint means four kids can get a transfusion,” said McGrorty.
Unfortunately, after 15 months of treatment, Matthew passed away - two days after Father’s Day.
“He was an amazing little boy,” said McGrorty. “Up until the last day he was trying to play.”
In lieu of flowers, the McGrorty family asked that mourners donate to the Hope & Heroes Children’s Cancer Fund at Columbia Presbyterian.
Through it all, said McGrorty, his colleagues at the New York Police Department were there for him, his wife, and his two other children, ages six and four (Matthew’s fraternal twin).
“There’s no job more supportive than the NYPD,” he said. “Especially the guys here [at the 102nd Precinct]. They did everything they possibly could to help.”
And that included donating the $11,000 raised at the annual golf outing in Matthew’s honor and memory.
Of that sum, said McGrorty, $5,000 was given directly to the Columbia Presbyterian lab for tumor research.
The rest went to purchasing 100 DVD players - the one item that Matthew always brought with him, according to his dad - that were given to the children undergoing treatment at the hospital. The players were then theirs to keep.
“We became friendly with the children and their families,” McGrorty said of the time he spent there.
The gifts - which came complete with remote controls, car chargers, headsets and more - were distributed by 12 officers in full uniform earlier this month.
“The kids were blown away,” said McGrorty. “They were very happy to see police officers.
“I was so proud of the guys I work with wanting to be part of this, as was my wife,” he continued. “They have always given back. Of all the charities they could have given money to, they honored the memory of my son. This is about what the guys did in Matt’s name.”
In addition to the DVD players, the cops also donated 225 DVDs ranging from Spongebob Squarepants to Scooby-Doo.
Sergeant Mike Narbutt, who not only works with McGrorty, but also lives close by on Long Island, was at the helm of organizing the fundraising efforts.
“Knowing what these kids are going through,” he said, “was tough but good because we knew we were doing something good.”
“One of the things I learned through the whole thing,” said McGrorty “is that we’ve been surrounded by people who have supported and continue to support my family.”