An NYPD highway patrol officer helps deliver holiday cheer in Central Park to children battling cancer

Police Officer Anthony Grosso of the NYPD Highway Patrol knows the tough fight a cancer survivor faces — and he provided some holiday hope to youngsters battling the illness.

The Central Park Precinct hosted a holiday extravaganza for children who are battling cancer in hopes of alleviating the worries of the world for the holiday. Spearheaded by Grosso, a cancer survivor himself, the event served as the perfect kickoff to Christmas week. 

The NYPD K-9 unit was happy to take part in the festivities. Photo by Dean Moses

At 14, Grosso was diagnosed with cancer, and since his teen years, he has carried with him the sacrifices and obstacles he overcame. Knowing the toll such a diagnosis can have on a family, he strove to give back.

Partnering with the Candlelighers NYC and The First Responders Children’s Foundation, Grosso hosted the fun-filled event for children undergoing the very same battle against cancer he had almost two decades prior.

His message to them: “You can shape this world too.”

Police Officer Anthony Grosso from NYPD Highway Patrol spearheaded the event. Photo by Dean Moses

“We’ve come together this day to bring holiday cheer,” Grosso said. “At 14 years old I was diagnosed with cancer. At that time, I had the opportunity to have the assistance of highway patrol during the course of treatments, surgery, and all of my follow up appointments. As most of you know here, it’s not a quick process but I had their support.” 

The celebration brought tears to Barbara Zobian, the founder and executive director of Candlelighers NYC. Photo by Dean Moses

Standing in full uniform, Grosso showcased that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and stated that he had always aspired to become a police officer, which he achieved nine years after his diagnosis. Becoming emotional, he shared that he was able bestow the same Highway Patrol escort for a little girl named Ava—a moment he describes as life coming “full circle.”

Magic tricks and other entertainment had the children laughing. Photo by Dean Moses

“Eighteen years ago, I had to deal with something that no child, or anyone, should have to go through. I had a great support system and now it’s my turn to give it back,” Grosso said with tears welling in his eyes. “With all of that support, I’m able to say I’m a police officer, I’m a husband, and I’m a father.”

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea also made a surprise appearance. While jogging through Central Park, he heard cheerful music blasting from the local precinct. Stopping by the event, the retiring top cop was overjoyed to discover the meaning behind the celebration.

Commissioner Dermot Shea was in awe of the event. Photo by Dean Moses
The NYPD hosted a festive event in Central Park for children battling cancer on Dec. 19.Photo by Dean Moses

“The thing is these stories are out there all over New York City of people doing amazing things, coming together, working together, and there is no greater cause than these kids here today,” Shea said, adding that looking at the sheer joy on the children’s faces showcases the true feeling of hope. 

“I think of hope, and I think how we have to do everything possible for them. When you look at these kids, they deserve every little bit of what they get from us, and God bless them,” Shea said.

The children were able to meet their superheroes. Photo by Dean Moses

The children met superheroes such as Captain America and Superman, were dazzled by magic tricks, played video games in the NYPD’s own video game truck, and petted some of the department’s four-legged officers from the horse and K-9 units. Just when they thought the fun had come to an end, Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus arrived with the help of a police escort.

Greeting the youngsters, Santa showered them with gifts beneath a Christmas tree.

Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus brought holiday cheer. Photo by Dean Moses

“I had the opportunity where I had family on this job, and they took care of me. But now, I wanted to get back to more of the community, more people. Paying it forward is really what it’s about. And if I could touch the lives of all these children, when they all beat cancer, they’ll all have the opportunity to hopefully do something similar,” Grosso told amNewYork Metro.

The NYPD Highway Patrol escorted Santa Claus to the event. Photo by Dean Moses
Mrs. Claus waved to the families. Photo by Dean Moses

For those children who are battling cancer and might feel alone, Grosso assures them that they are not.

“I say keep fighting. It’s a hard fight. But it’s worth it. You’re gonna get there. It’s gonna take time. But you have a larger support system more than you even know. There’s so many people and so many resources out there. And Candlelighters New York City is one of them. Then NYPD has plenty of resources, so feel free to stop into any precinct. See what we have. There’s always people and if you just need to talk to somebody, just find a police officer,” Grossso said.

Mr. And Mrs. Claus received a police escort to the holiday event. Photo by Dean Moses
The NYPD Horse Unit. Photo by Dean Moses
This little boy tested the strength of Captain America’s shield. Photo by Dean Moses