GRIFFITH | What started as a plan by Canadian National Railway police to decorate the hospital room of a train-loving 3-year-old patient quickly gained steam.
Led by the Pipes and Drums of the Lake County Sheriff's Department, a caravan of more than 20 firetrucks and police cars brought smiles Sunday as a bundled up Adler sat in his wagon, flanked by family and friends.
The Adler Shelbourne Police and Fire Parade stopped at the boy's Griffith home, bringing balloons, monetary donations, cards and enough presents to fill a freight car.
Canadian National police Officer Eric Graf, the event's conductor, told Adler, "The chief is always looking for brave guys to become police officers."
"We are proud today to appoint you to the Police Department," Graf said while giving Adler his very own Canadian National police jacket.
Canadian National Police Chief Bobby Walker told Adler, "Thank you for being such a strong boy and being out here today."
"We are here as an emergency response family and community to support you and to keep your spirits strong to deal with the situation," Walker said. "It is a blessing for us to be able to be here."
Lake Hills firefighter Chris Graf promised Adler a station tour and ride on a firetruck.
U.S. Steel employees and management donated a working mounted locomotive bell inscribed with Adler's name. A member of the Pipes and Drums presented Adler with a Thomas the Train blanket handmade by his wife.
When Eric Graf first heard about Adler, who loves trains, he wanted to donate railroad items to cheer up Adler during future hospital stays.
Soon, fellow employees donated cards, money and train-related gifts. Graf's wife, Chris, the Lake Hills firefighter, became involved, and police and firefighters from Lowell to Highland, train clubs and local businesses joined.
Adler said the best part of the parade was the "Thomas stuff."
"My wife and I thank all the people who came out and all the people who are praying for him," said Adler's father, Jason Shelbourne. "We appreciate all this and all the gifts, too."
Adler has had two surgeries for a malignant brain tumor. The next step is six weeks of radiation and a month break followed by chemotherapy.
Adler watches "Thomas and the Magic Railroad" five times each day, said his mother, Stephanie Nagy Shelbourne.
Adler's courage and strength through his illness have prompted his relatives to call him their "little engine that can."
An account, Shelbourne Benefit for Adler, has been set up at Centier Bank. Donations may be made at any branch.