Tim Wagner and Joe Donovan have heard just about every excuse in the book for not accomplishing what, for most people, might be considered the simplest of tasks.
After all, they’ve both been cops in the city of Buffalo for the last 18 years.
It helps explain why the two veteran officers were so taken late last spring during a traffic detail near the Outer Harbor when Easton Jordan, then 6, was about to start the "walk, run and roll" fundraiser to benefit the Make Lemon Aide Foundation for Cerebral Palsy.
It also helps explain why they agreed to meet up again last week with Easton and his family at the city traffic station where the officers work.
"In all the years we've been doing this job, nothing has inspired us more than what we saw that day,” Wagner said.
Easton uses a motorized wheelchair to get around when his cerebral palsy wears him down but on that day he decided the fundraiser should become a milestone along the way to his ultimate goal — walking on his own.
He decided to finish the walk on his feet, no excuses, and asked his mother, Jill, to leave his wheelchair at the starting line. He lined up behind all of those running, walking and using wheelchairs, with only his grit, his walker and about two dozen loved ones the family calls Team Easton.
Wagner and Donovan ambled over to Easton after the officers finished their motor vehicle traffic duties and began to keep watch on the fundraising course.
"He looked at them and said, 'I'm walking this whole thing,' and they looked at him and said, 'We'll, we're walking it with you,' " Jill Jordan recalled.
Wagner and Donovan flanked Easton as he worked, for an hour, to cross the finish line, stopping often to stretch and for water breaks, but never to ask for his wheelchair. The officers helped steel his determination with encouragement.
“His feet would get tied up and we'd ask, 'Do you want to quit?' As soon as he heard the word 'quit,' he righted himself,” Wagner said.
Easton and his parents have remained so thankful during the months since the walk on June 10 that they worked through social media and with the Buffalo Police Department to find the officers. The Orchard Park couple arranged to thank the officers personally late last week, as well as surprise them both at the Bailey Avenue police traffic station with plaques that included a photo of the two crossing the finish line with their son.
It turned out the officers had a bigger surprise for Easton. They had bought him a uniform, handcuffs and police helmet bearing his name — as well as a battery-powered kids motorcycle emblazoned with a likeness of the Buffalo PD insignia.
“I love it,” Easton said as he flashed a smile and settled onto the motorcycle seat.
The family and officers posed for photos, and took in the blessings of the second special occasion they shared.
"We're excited for him and the impact that he continues to make," said his father, Brent Jordan.
Easton is among the first children in the region to benefit from strenuous physical therapy sessions designed to improve strength and dexterity for those with cerebral palsy and other conditions. Lauren Walier, the daughter of parents who grew up in Hamburg, is among his role models. Walier grew up in Atlanta and now is in college. She went from a wheelchair to a walker to walking on her own — and even ballroom dance competitions — with help from the therapy, called the Symptom Recovery Model.
Walier and her family run the Make Lemon Aide Foundation. Their annual Walk/Run/Roll in Lauren’s Shoes is their largest annual fundraiser. The bulk of the proceeds go to support families in Western New York touched by CP, as well as physical therapists in the region who would like to learn the Symptom Recovery Model.
Easton has to pace himself, his father said. It’s tough for the Ellicott Elementary School first-grader to use his walker at home because most of the house is carpeted, "but in his after-school program, he'll ask for it,” Brent Jordan said. “The kids will have gym time and he wants to run with the rest of the kids. He knows he's not as fast, but in his mind, he says, 'I'll keep going and I'll get there.' He continues to keep striving and pushing himself. It's pretty amazing to watch."
Two Buffalo police officers — and all those who watched Easton cross the finish line on a June afternoon on the city waterfront — understand.
"When we're out there in the street,” Donovan said, “and people are having issues and want to quit, now we say, 'Listen, let me tell you the story about this 6-year-old kid who had basically been consigned to a wheelchair — and walked a mile.'"