Police officers provide comfort to cancer patients in the most personal way

By Lou Ponsi

The police officer choked back tears after being asked one simple question.

“Why do you do this?”

Irvine PD Officer Rafaelo Papale, his wife, Jenn, her co-worker and officers from other agencies had just spent the morning of April 4 delivering 87 filled backpacks to chemotherapy patients receiving treatment at the Compassionate Cancer Care Center in Fountain Valley.

From left, Kristen Mix, Tustin PD’s Matt Roque, Irvine PD’s Rafaelo Papale, Garden Grover PD’s Ed DesBiens and Jenn Papale deliver care packages to patients receiving treatment at Compassionate Cancer Care Medical Group in Fountain Valley. Photo by Lou Ponsi/ Behind the Badge OC

 

The backpacks included items meant to provide comfort such as soft blankets, lip balm, hand sanitizer, tissue, healthy snacks and a journal.

The gesture couldn’t be any more personal for the Papales, who were donating the care packages for the second year in a row.

Jenn Papale, left, wife of Irvine police officer Rafaelo Papale, and Officer Ed DesBiens of Garden Grove PD hand out care packages to patients at the Compassionate Cancer Care Medical Group in Fountain Valley.

In 2016, the couple donated 67 filled backpacks to show support for their friend, Briana Baldwin, who was battling breast cancer and receiving treatment at the Compassionate Cancer Care Center.

Unfortunately, Baldwin lost her fight with the disease.

“We had our good friend that we started this for and she is not here,” Officer Papale said. “I’ve had a lot of people that I’ve known in the past who have been affected by cancer. Cancer sucks. We want to do anything we can do to help and make them more comfortable.”

The gifts were made possible by in-kind donations from Westminster, Garden Grove, Tustin and Irvine police associations and other groups.

Officer Matt Roque of Tustin PD and Irvine PD Officer Rafaelo Papale carry boxes full of comfort packages into the Compassionate Cancer Care Medical Group in Fountain Valley. Photo by Lou Ponsi/ Behind the Badge OC

“For me it was a no brainer,” said Tustin PD Officer Matt Roque, on his motivation to help. “We’ve participated in the Relay for Life for the last several years and usually we are the biggest team. This is a chance to do something a little more personal. You don’t get more personal than creating a bag that really gives somebody comfort.”

Tustin Police Officer Matt Roque, left and Kristen Mix of the company, Thirty-one, deliver comfort packages to patients at Compassionate Cancer Care Medical Group in Fountain Valley. Photo by Lou Ponsi/ Behind the Badge OC

Last year, Jenn Papale, a consultant with the purse and tote bag company Thirty-One, committed to donating 20 bags for the center but ended up more than tripling her goal when local law enforcement got involved.

Officer Ed DesBiens of Garden Grove PD gives a backpack filled with comfort items to a patient at the Compassionate Cancer Care Medical Group in Fountain Valley.

“Cancer is one of those things that it touches everybody,” Garden Grove PD Officer Ed DesBiens said. “So, anything we can do to help out to ease the pain, to help somebody through … it’s the right thing to do. We are getting involved and we are going to continue to get involved.”

Doctors, nurses and staff welcomed and thanked the officers and their helpers and were eager to pose for group photos.

Police officers pose with Dr. Haresh Jhangiani at the Compassionate Cancer Care Medical Group. Photo by Lou Ponsi/ Behind the Badge OC

“Chemo patients need love and care and compassion,” Dr. Haresh Jhangiani said. “Every little gesture helps our patients tremendously. We really appreciate the police departments and the civilians who come out.”

Officer Papales said they plan to return to the center with care packages every year.

“The hope is that we can supply enough for all the patients for the whole year until the following year comes up,” he said.

Officer Rafaelo Papale of Irvine PD shows items for a care package to a patient at Compassionate Cancer Care Medical Group in Fountain Valley. Photo by Lou Ponsi/ Behind the Badge OC