NORTH PLAINFIELD — During the holiday season, Police Officer Taras Bogutskiy got a text message from a friend asking for a uniform patch from his department.

The recipient: the friend's 4-year-old nephew, Grayson, who had just been diagnosed with leukemia and who dreams of one day becoming a police officer. Grayson had already gotten a patch from another department, which made him very happy, but Officer Bogutskiy decided to do him one better.

Or, make that about 90 better.

That is the approximate number of patches Bogutskiy received, in a very short amount of time at the end of 2018, and pinned to a "Thin Blue Line" American flag to present to Grayson at Christmas.

"The aunt stopped by the house, she picked it up, and she gave that in a box for him for Christmas," Bogutskiy said. "She sent me a video of him opening it up, and he was very happy."

Bogutskiy started with North Plainfield but reached out to surrounding departments as well, contacting others on social media, and before long he was getting patches delivered or stopping at area police departments on his way home from work to pick them up.

He may put surplus patches he has received — which have come from as far away as Honolulu, and may be coming from France and Spain — on an additional blanket for Grayson.

"It was a team effort, and it was very nice to see that before the holidays, everyone got together and took their time to reach out, and people wrote nice letters for Grayson so he had a lot of things to unpack for Christmas," Bogutskiy said.

Grayson's battle against leukemia is expected to take three years. He is doing well right now, Bogutskiy said, undergoing chemotherapy treatments twice a week, and the officer is thankful he got to put a smile on this child's face as a new year begins.

Patrick Lavery is Senior Producer of Morning News and Special Programming for New Jersey 101.5, and is lead reporter and substitute anchor for "New Jersey's First News." Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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