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Protecting the protectors: Cape Cod girl donates medals to MIPD

Lance Shearer
Marco Eagle
Caoimhe Assad with cookies she baked to raise funds. A nine-year-old Massachusetts girl donated St. Michael medals to all MIPD officers to help keep them safe.

Sometime, those who protect us need a little protection themselves, and one Massachusetts girl has taken the task to heart.

Nine-year-old Caoimhe Assad has a special reason for wanting to protect police officers from harm – one of them is her father. She lives in Mashpee, Mass. on Cape Cod, but after she heard of the death of Marco Island Police Dept. Lt. Clayton Smith in a traffic crash in February, the young lady sent medals depicting Saint Michael, the patron saint of law enforcement officers, to every officer in the MIPD.

Caoimhe (her name is pronounced “Keeva,” said her mother Karen Assad, a native of Ireland where the name is common), has taken to heart her mission of force protection. She raised money for the Saint Michael medals by collecting aluminum cans and holding a bake sale at her church in Mashpee, and solicited donations. In all, she has amassed over 1,000 of the medals, and donated them to police departments in Falmouth, Weymouth, and Barnstable in Massachusetts, as well as those for Marco Island.

The Marco connection came about after MIPD Sgt. Hector Diaz, a 21-year veteran of the force, met Mike Assad, Caoimhe’s father, when he traveled to New England last fall. Along with going to a New England Patriots’ NFL game, he tagged along with a friend to a youth flag football game a friend was coaching. Coaching for the home team was Mike Assad, and he and Diaz bonded based on a number of shared experiences.

Both are sergeants, both worked in narcotics, and both had acted as canine trainers for their respective departments. Mike and Karen have a Southwest Florida connection, with family in Ft. Myers, and love to visit Disney World.

The dangers inherent in the life of a law enforcement officer became personal for Caoimhe when a friend of his died in the line of duty, said Sgt. Assad. “My friend Mike was shot and killed. We trained K-9s together.”

After her parents told Caoimhe that Saint Michael protects police officers, she took on a personal challenge, at the tender age of eight.

“Her goal was to raise enough money to donate medals for every police officer on the Cape,” said her father, and hearing of the death of Lt. Smith made her want to reach out to the Marco Island department as well.

The Assad family has a strong connection to the law enforcement community. Along with her father, Karen Assad’s father is a major in the Barnstable County department, in charge of the canine unit, and Mike Assad’s father is a retired chief deputy U.S. marshal.

“They called me after the lieutenant’s passing,” Sgt. Diaz said of the Assad family. “She wanted to do a fundraiser for us. It was very touching – it shows what kind of young lady she is. She has a very big heart. She understands what it means to lose an officer.”

Caoimhe sent about 50 of the medals to Marco Island, each pinned to a card with the hand-written inscription, “Saint Michael, keep this officer safe.” She got her whole family involved, with her brother Liam, 11, helping to write out the cards, package the medals, and gather donated cans.

Capt. Dave Baer of the MIPD said his department had seen an outpouring of support in the days following the death of their brother officer.

“This is another in a line of hundreds or thousands of acts of kindness connected with the tragic passing of Lt. Smith. There is no end to the number of people who have demonstrated their kindness,” said Baer.

“But to do this from 1,500 miles away is extraordinary, and we really appreciate it. This is one of the reasons we get up in the morning, why we do community policing.”