BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio -- Caden Sizemore invited his whole third-grade class to his birthday party last year, but no one came.
His mother, Heather Sizemore, said the then-9-year-old was heartbroken. Because he has autism, it was difficult for him to understand why none of his friends accepted his invitation.
“When the party was over last year, he cried the whole way home and said, ‘I’m never having a birthday party again,’” she said.
Caden’s 10th birthday party was much different.
Two Butler County sheriff’s deputies heard about his story, and they wanted to make sure his party was extra special this year. Instead of spending his birthday alone, Caden celebrated sitting in the front seat of a sheriff's cruiser, blaring the siren and flashing the lights.
Deputy Sheriff Steve Tanner heard about the birthday party from his co-worker, who was getting ready to go surprise Caden. Tanner knew he wanted to help make his birthday one he’d remember.
"I knew I had some items at the house -- stickers, coloring books -- and I ran out and put them in my cruiser to come here,” Tanner said. “And then my wife yelled at me, ‘You’ve got some police cruisers on top of your safe. Go grab one of those and give it to him.’ So that’s what I did."
Heather said she was just as surprised to see the deputies as her son was.
“My son was playing, and all of a sudden, two officers came for him. They made it a special time for Caden,” she said. “I have never seen my son smile like that … my son has been in and out of the hospital the past couple weeks, and he’s been through a lot, so it was a really special 10th birthday.”
Caden was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) when he was 4 years old. PDD-NOS is an autism spectrum disorder characterized by delays in development and communication skills.
Heather said Caden has recently experienced unpleasant side effects from medication. Sometimes he has fits; other times, his whole body jerks while he sleeps at night.
“He’s been struggling with a lot of things in his life, but he does try to be the best kid he can be. He’s very caring and sweet.”
For Caden, the deputies were more than just guests at his party.
“I want to be a police officer when I grow up … so I can save people and help in car wrecks and help other people when they need help,” he said.
Tanner said he was grateful for the chance to spend time with people in the community -- especially young Caden and his friends.
“I was just hoping with his medical condition that he would be able to enjoy the time with us and be excited,” Tanner said. “It’s just great to be able to watch his face and have a smile as he plays with the cruiser and the lights and the sirens.
“It makes my day just as much as it makes his.”
Heather said it’s difficult to express how thankful she is for the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.
“I’m blessed to have officers that care like that, especially officers that care for a child with disabilities.”
But Tanner said he is the one who is grateful.
“I’m just kind of overwhelmed with all of this … I just did a good deed, come out and visit him, play with him for a few minutes … it might be one of the best experiences he’s had in his life, so I’m just happy to be a part of it.”