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Crestview Police throws parade for girl with a rare form of brain cancer

Charli Betts, 5, and her mother, Bree, wave to a passing Crestview Police pick-up which was part of a parade organized in her honor. The girl was diagnosed with a rare brain stem cancer.
Charli Betts, 5, and her mother, Bree, wave to a passing Crestview Police pick-up which was part of a parade organized in her honor. The girl was diagnosed with a rare brain stem cancer.(Brian Hughes)
Published: Jul. 17, 2020 at 10:27 AM CDT
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CRESTVIEW, Fla. (PRESS RELEASE) - Five-year-old Charli Betts’ day was made much brighter, and considerably livelier, when a parade of Crestview Police vehicles — with lights flashing and sirens blaring — passed by her Williams Avenue home Thursday morning.

Charli suffers from diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG, a brain stem tumor found in the pons, the part of the brain stem that controls essential bodily functions such as heartbeat, breathing, swallowing, eye movement, eyesight and balance.

According to the Michael Mosier Defeat DIPG Foundation website, the disorder strikes young children and is almost always fatal. For Bree and Dakota Betts, each day with their only child is a blessing — and so was the parade in Charli’s honor.

Bree held her daughter and pointed out details on the vehicles while Dakota took photos of Charli, her eyes aglow as nearly a dozen police vehicles passed slowly by the family home, the words “Charli Strong” written on their windows.

But the fun didn’t end with the parade. After parking their cars, officers converged in front of the Betts’s home, maintaining social distancing as they brought forth bags, boxes, balloons and tubs of presents for Charli. Included among the toys were stuffed unicorns — one of Charli’s favorite animals after the big white family dog, Sid.

After the gifts were presented came another treat. K9 Officer Jay Peak brought up his partner, K9 Sonic, who peered over the edge of Charli’s wagon and received an affectionate pat of thanks under his soft black chin in return.

The visit might well have meant even more to Charli’s parents than it did to the girl. As a military family, their closest family members are in Washington and California.

“It’s a blessing,” Bree said as the officers waved good-bye and returned to their vehicles. “It felt a little empty and alone here when we learned about Charli’s condition, trying to process everything without someone to turn to.”

Such a display of support in their new home, organized by their neighbor, police Officer Wanda Hulion, reinforced Crestview’s reputation as a caring community in the Betts’s eyes.

“I’m floored,” Bree said. “I didn’t know Crestview had this much love in it like this. We’re so grateful.”

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