Flashing lights and sirens from a police escort for Joshua and Jacob Fernando on Sept. 30 led several dozen Belmont Station Elementary School students to shout, cheer and jump. The twin brothers in the motorcade couldn’t replicate their classmates’ joy physically. Instead, they enjoyed a morning ride to school their family and friends say will never be forgotten.
In a joint effort between the Fairfax Police Department and the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, the Fernando brothers received a special ride to school in between a cavalcade of police officers on motorcycles. The twins, born with a rare disorder called ataxia telangiectasia (A-T), arrived in front of the school alongside an ecstatic crowd that held signs and chanted their names.
“We’ve been talking about making the world a little bigger for them because although they don’t have the ability to go places by themselves,” the twins’ father, Ben Fernando said. “We want to bring things to them and this is a great example of how that happened today.”
A-T is a neurodegenerative disease that impacts movement and coordination while also weakening the immune system, leaving sufferers to increased risks of cancers later in life. Fernando said his two sons are among less than 500 people in America with the disease.
The ride for Josh and Jacob was inspired by their years-long fascination with police officers. Julie Molthen, the twins’ current teacher, asked her neighbor Charles Mills, a Fairfax County police officer, to come in to speak to the class. Mills said he then made a couple phone calls to other officers in Farifax and Loudoun law enforcement and they worked a plan to evolve a class visit into a police escort to school.
“To these police officers that made it happen – thank you is not enough,” Ben Fernando said. “Sometimes these police officers do a thankless job and for our kids to appreciate that, that means a lot to us as well.”
The twins didn’t know the police were coming until the morning of the event, said their mother, Jen Fernando. She said her sons’ faces lit up when they saw the motorcycles, as did hers and her husband’s.
They stayed that way through the trip to their school in Ashburn. After arriving before the cheering crowd of teachers and classmates, the Fernando family thanked the students and staff, then took pictures with officers before heading into the building for class.
“It’s amazing to see how this is a day they will remember for the rest of their lives,” Ben Fernando said.