WILDWOODS – At least two police departments in the Wildwoods have decided to not only participate in No Shave November, but also compete to see who can raise more money to support the family of Joey Povio, a 7-year-old from Dennis Township suffering with retinoblastoma, a rare eye cancer.
Lt. Ed Gorski of the Wildwood Crest Police Department said his department was going to complete with the Wildwood Police to see which department could raise the most money, per officer.
“We have to go by percentages per officer,” Gorski said. “We have 19 officers and (Wildwood) has a lot more.”
Gorski said this is a competition in which there will be no losers. In the end, the competition could result in the departments raising more money for the Povio family, who anticipate large bills related to Joey’s treatment.
“This is a great cause,” Gorski said. “It’s a terrible thing for him, or for anyone, but for a child is a shame.”
The officers from Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, and North Wildwood Police Departments will participate in No Shave November, when their officers will be allowed to grow beards or goatees and donate the money they would spend on shaving to cancer prevention or to aid someone fighting the disease. Officers will also accept donations from the public.
Gorski said he was not aware that the North Wildwood Police Department would be participating in No Shave November when his department made the bet with Wildwood.
Capt. John Stevenson of the North Wildwood Police Department said officers will participate in No Shave November for the first time, but they would not be participating in the bet. He said a couple of their officers approached Police Chief Matthew Gallagher about participating, and it seemed like a good idea to raise money to help Joey and his family.
“We’re not looking at this as a competition, although there is no loser – the family will win,” Stevenson said.
Joey Povio, who turned 7 on Oct. 30, visited Cape May with his family on Oct. 31, including his mom and dad, Chrissy and Vince, and his 11-year-old brother Vinnie.
Joey was diagnosed with retinoblastoma on July 11. Joey had a visit with his opthamologist, Dr. Richard Wise, who notice a partial detachment of the retina in one of Joey’s eyes, and wanted to know what caused it. As it turned out, it was a tumor.
According to his father, Vince, Joey underwent an MRI on July 12, because the doctors wanted to know the extent of the tumor, and they started Joey on chemotherapy on July 13.
“The doctors said their first concern was saving Joey’s life, then they would worry about saving his eye,” Vince said.
Joey has been going to Wills Eye Clinic in Philadelphia as well as the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), where he receives his chemo.
“I don’t like the IV when I’m awake,” Joey said.
Vince said Joey gets three days of treatment each month. They will take Joey to the Wills Eye Clinic and he will be put to sleep with what Joey calls “giggle juice.” Once he is under the anesthetic, the doctors inject cancer fighting drugs into his eye, targeting the “seeding,” which is what they call pieces of the tumor that have broken off and are floating around. After he receives this treatment, he goes to CHOP, where he has two days of general chemotherapy. On the third day he gets another shot and goes home.
“It’s been three days every month. He has done five shifts and still has maybe five more,” Vince said.
Chrissy and Vince said they have had a lot of support from their employers. Chrissy works in reception at the Urgent Care facility in Cape May Court House. Vince is an emergency room technician at the Cape Regional Medical Center. He has been able to take the time to take Joey to treatment under the federal Family Medical Leave Act, but the expenses are mounting.
“Just to stay in Philadelphia for two or three days – a room costs a couple hundred dollars per night,” Vince said.
The Povios said people have sponsored benefits to help with the medical bills, which they are not able to afford. Vince said just last week the Dennis Township football program held a bake sale to help raise money. Last month, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (R-Pa.) stopped in to see Joey at the eye clinic. John Lynch of Lunch with Lynch and other charities introduced them to State Sen. Jeff Van Drew. A 5K race was organized and it raised $6,000 for medical bills. The Povios were given tickets to a Phillies came, and Ryan Howard took them into the locker room. They received some autographed memorabilia, which is being raffled off to help with the bills. Vince said Titus O’Neil of the WWE met Joey and has posted video about his situation on social media.
“Titus O’Neil texted me later,” Vince said, to see how the treatment is going.
Lower Township’s Matt Szczur also sent autographed Chicago Cubs gear to be raffled.
Along the way, Chrissy’s father, Avalon Police Chief William McCormick go the message out to police departments, which have jumped on the No Shave November band wagon.
“Oh, my goodness,” Chrissy said. “I am so thankful to everyone.”
Cape May Police Chief Anthony Marino said his department’s goal is to raise $5,000 for the Povio family. They have set up a Go Fund Me site, the link for which is located on the Cape May Police Facebook page. Marino said people can also drop off donations at the police station. Contact your local police station to find out how to contribute to No Shave November to benefit Joey Povio.