The partners from the 39th District, headquartered at 22nd Street and Hunting Park Avenue, drove 540 miles round-trip on their own time yesterday to join nearly 1,000 cops from dozens of police departments, from Boston to Kentucky, who came together as one force to support a sick little boy who admires first responders.
"In today's day and age, all the role models are celebrities, so we were really touched that his role models are police officers," Levin said.
After Tyler's mother posted his simple birthday wish for cards from cops on Facebook, the request went viral and the family received thousands of cards, videos and packages from departments as far away as Switzerland and Italy. A Facebook page created in Tyler's honor, called Tyler's Troops, had more than 22,000 followers yesterday.
Levin said Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police president John McNesby helped secure them a Philadelphia police cruiser to take to Rhode Island yesterday.
"The command staff was very receptive to the idea," McNesby said. "It shows what we do every day. These are things we should be getting more involved with."
Levin and Esquilin didn't show up with an empty cruiser. The pair brought hundreds of gifts for Tyler that were donated from their fellow officers, including embroidered police jackets, shirts and even a flight suit donated by the department's aviation unit.
McNesby said he was pleased to see officers donate what they could.
"How do you say no to something like that?" McNesby asked. "Even if you don't have it, you find it, which a lot of us are doing."
Levin, 29, and Esquilin, 26, both have young sons of their own. Levin, whose son is the same age as Tyler, said that's one of the reasons he was so moved by Tyler's story.
"I'm my kid's hero, so I know what it feels like for a kid to look up to a cop," he said. "If my kid was in the situation, I would want someone to do this for him."
In addition to a large procession from his house to a party, Tyler was also given his own police uniform and was named an honorary police chief, district attorney and fire marshal for the day by his local departments.
Levin said many people were impressed that two officers drove all the way from Philadelphia to participate, but he said it was his honor to be there.
"It was overwhelming," Levin said.
After posting a picture of themselves with Tyler on Facebook yesterday, a woman left this message under Esquilin's post on Tyler's page:
"I am in the hiring process for PPD right now & someday I hope to carry on the caring & loving message you have sent to this young boy!"
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