3-Year-Old Boy Battling Terminal Cancer Sworn In as Honorary FDNY Firefighter
This brave kid is now one of New York's Bravest.
Trucker Dukes, a 3-year-old Hawaii who is battling terminal cancer, was sworn in as an honorary firefighter in New York City earlier this week.
Trucker, of Maui, was given the special honor on Randall's Island alongside 4-year-old River Laurence from Texas. Both have been diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma.
"Going through something like your baby having cancer is such a hard time," Trucker's mom, Shauna Dukes told InsideEdition.com. "All the men that showed up there today — they showed up to honor him. Tears were rolling down my face because it was so special."
Dukes cheered from the audience as her husband, Josh Dukes, escorted Trucker across the stage.
As coincidence would have it, Trucker's father Josh Dukes is also a firefighter in Maui, and was dressed in his uniform for his son's big day.
"A lot of very handsome men today but I get to take home the most handsome one," his mom laughed.
After the national anthem, a group prayer, and a speech by FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro, the boys put their hands on the bible and swore a "cute and condensed" version of the oath.
Shauna Dukes told InsideEdition.com that they was then given a plaque and a mini uniform, officially making him a New York City firefighter.
Though both Trucker and River get treatment from New York Memorial Sloan Kettering, this was the first time both families met. River was a familiar face to a firehouse in Brooklyn, whereas Trucker had gotten to know a station in the Upper East Side since coming to New York for treatment.
Trucker was diagnosed when he was 2 years old, just before Christmas.
“By the time we caught the cancer, it was already stage four,” his mom told InsideEdition.com.
Little Trucker’s treatment started in Honolulu, but the boy was soon transferred to the New York facility that specializes in his cancer.
Though his mom said they had hoped to only be in New York for one or two weeks at a time for treatment, complications have caused them to be away from Trucker’s father and three older siblings for most of the last year.
“The pediatric cancer world is a really hard place to be,” she said.
Dukes recalled that one day, they were on their way back to the Ronald McDonald House when they saw fire engines pull up. She said someone had been cooking dinner, and a fire alarm was pulled.
When a third fire engine suddenly pulled up and blocked their path, “Trucker’s face lit up.”
The 2-year-old ran toward the fire truck, and when Captain Jim Grismer saw Trucker, he hopped out of the truck, extended his arms, and the two shared a dramatic hug.
“It was like a scene out of a movie,” Dukes laughed. “He saw trucker’s face and opened his arms.”
Thus began the start of Trucker’s connection with the 85th Street Fire House, Engine 22, Ladder 13, Battalion 10.
“Trucker’s a big fan of the fire department,” said firefighter William Pitta, who is among the 50 men stationed at this fire house.
But Dukes was never surprised at her son's love of firefighters. In fact, Trucker, who is often running around the city wearing his firefighter costume, has been spending time in firehouses since before he was born.
"When he was born, we did most Sundays at the fire station," she told InsideEdition.com. "When he got sick — he was really just a baby — the only thing that lit him up was the fire truck, when he would hear sirens outside."
Even in New York, Pitta said he continues to spend his time around the firefighters: “He comes out all the time. Whenever we can have him, we go and pick him up.”
From holidays, to lunches, and regular visits when they are in the area, Dukes said the fire department has done everything to support them in their time way from home.
“They’ve become our family in New York,” Dukes said, since her other three children and husband only visit on occasion.
When Trucker turned 3 years old in New York, the 85th Street Firehouse even threw him a birthday party. “We had a cake made and everything,” Pitta said.
Once, Dukes recalled that she and her son were invited to have lunch at the firehouse, but between chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Trucker was feeling too sick to go.
So, the firefighters brought lunch to Trucker, his mom said.
"Between the two of them, it's nice having [them around]," Pitta told InsideEdition.com. "He just lights the place up, and his mom is a complete sweetheart ."
The decision to have Trucker sworn in came following a barbecue at the firehouse on St. Patrick's day that he and his mom had been invited to.
They took pictures, and the fire commissioner caught wind of Trucker's story.
While Trucker and his family were on their Make-A-Wish trip to Disneyland, Dukes said she received a text, saying, "I'm so excited to tell you this. They want to swear him in."
"The FDNY has been the silver lining," Dukes said. "They've loved us so well, and a lot of these guys will be our friends for life."