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Officer teams up with family to fight rare disease

February 20, 2019

SOMERSWORTH, N.H. (AP) — A Somersworth family is looking for a hat trick of community support to send Rochester police officer Keith MacKenzie to next month’s annual Battle of the Badges hockey game in honor of a boy fighting a rare disease.

The family is hoping for a large turnout this Saturday at a community spaghetti dinner and raffle night to raise the funds MacKenzie needs to skate in honor of Brycen Allen Berube, 7, of Somersworth, for the third year in a row.

Brycen has the rare genetic disease neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1), which has caused multiple tumors in his brain and behind his optic nerves. This year, Brycen gets to drop the puck during the ceremonial opening faceoff at Battle of the Badges, adding a special layer to his favorite part of Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s annual police vs. firefighters game.

“When the blue team wins,” Brycen said when asked what he enjoys most about the game, referring to the fact Team Police has the bested red Team Fire each of the last three years.

The spaghetti and meatballs fundraiser for MacKenzie and Brycen is from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday at American Legion Post 69 in Somersworth. The all-you-can-eat dinner costs $8 for adults and $5 for children, according to Tammy Ruddy, Brycen’s grandmother and guardian.

Ruddy said numerous Tri-City businesses and organizations have donated food and support, as well as gift cards and items for raffles. She said the significant community support they’ve already received makes her confident they’ll surpass the $1,500 MacKenzie must raise to play in CHaD’s Battle of the Badges.

“The support is overwhelming,” said Ruddy, the Somersworth Housing Authority’s public housing coordinator.

The full-contact Battle of the Battles game will then be held at 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 16, at SNHU Arena in Manchester.

Since 2008, the game has used good-natured first responder rivalry to raise money to provide critical child and family support services while children receive intensive care and treatment for cancer and other chronic illnesses at CHaD. The 2018 Battle of the Badges raised a record $286,000 in 2018, according to CHaD’s website for the game, chadhockey.org.

MacKenzie, a Rochester K9 officer and a Team Police forward and assistant captain, is the only officer who has skated in every Battle of the Badges game. A number of other Seacoast-area officers and firefighters will also skate in this year’s Battle of the Badges.

MacKenzie met Brycen thanks to his frequent work with the Somersworth Housing Authority, quickly forming a bond with the energetic youngster. Ruddy said MacKenzie has become like family to them.

“I wasn’t going to play more than 10 years,” the 41-year-old MacKenzie said of Battle of the Badges, hinting at the physical toll, “but I’ve kept going because of Brycen. It’s good to give back, and I get to see how it helps kids firsthand. It’s for a great cause.”

Ruddy said the support funded by Battle of the Badges has gone a long way in helping Brycen feel happy and comfortable while he’s undergone demanding treatments at CHaD over the years. Ruddy said they’ve also helped her a great deal as well, as CHaD uses some of the funds to cover the single guardian’s gas to get to CHaD.

Brycen started his second round of weekly chemotherapy treatments last November, although he’s missed the last couple because his weight has dropped too low. He’s currently battling two brain tumors and a tumor behind his left optic nerve. He’s a fighter, though, said Ruddy.

“We did it before, and we’ll do it again,” she said as Brycen played with his cousins Monday morning.

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Online: https://bit.ly/2GVTVSb

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Information from: Foster’s Daily Democrat, http://www.fosters.com