North Carolina Highway Patrolman Brian Lane understands what it’s like to be a child in the hospital, and he decided to give sick kids in UNC Hospitals a little joy. With the help of some friends and the blessing of the NC Highway Patrol, Lane put together the Junior Troopers program, which lets kids in hospitals ride in a special wheelchair with a siren and hand out tickets to doctors and nurses.
In the program, Lane brings a wheelchair fitted with a blue siren and the NC Highway Patrol logo on the wheels. Lane even got local businesses to donate baseball caps, pens, and ticket pads with the Junior Troopers logo on them. Sick kids get a ride on the special wheelchair and enjoy giving out tickets to doctors and nurses for things like walking while texting on their phones. Penalties for these violations usually involve ice cream for the little troopers.
Lane understands how sick kids feel because he was once one of them. At 15 years old, Lane was hospitalized for a rare illness called pectus excavatum or Sunken Chest Syndrome, where the bones of the chest grow inward and compress internal organs. When Lane was in the hospital undergoing reconstructive surgeries, he was visited by a local university basketball star. This experience inspired him to create the Junior Troopers program.
“I thought it was cool that a celebrity student athlete would take the time to come see me. And he brought me a ball signed by the entire team. I still have that ball,” Lane told Johnny Whitfield of the Eastern Wake News.
The Junior Troopers program was a success in the first few hospitals Lane visited, and the dedicated trooper has plans to visit sick kids in hospitals around North Carolina to help spread joy. Lane says the program wasn’t started as positive publicity for the NC Highway Patrol, which has suffered some publicity setbacks when officers were caught in recent scandals, but he’s happy that he can help kids become more comfortable around law enforcement.
“A police officer is someone kids can be afraid of, so it’s good to see them do something like this,” said Rachel Brewer, mom of one of the sick kids Lane visited in the hospital.