NY boy, 5, honored for 911 call
By Denise Richardson
ONEONTA, N.Y. — Amari Champen became a junior police officer and junior firefighter in Oneonta on Tuesday.
He’s only 5 years old.
The Oneonta Police Department and the Oneonta Fire Department gave Amari the special designations because he telephoned Emergency 911 when his cousin, who was babysitting, had a medical emergency earlier this month. Amari called, and when emergency crews arrived, he directed them to his cousin, Police Chief Dennis Nayor said.
Along with stickers to show his police and firefighter status, he was given “Livesaving Award” certificates from both departments, plus goodie bags with a stuffed animal, water bottle and a plastic firefighters hat. He and several cousins were given tours of the fire and police departments.
Devon Champen, Amari’s cousin, said she was babysitting Amari at her grandmother’s house on Cherry Street in Oneonta on Sunday, Aug. 21, when she had a seizure.
“It was very extreme,” according to Champen, who said she had what is known as a grand mal seizure. She was in the bathroom and had hit her head on the tub, she said, and when she realized what had happened, she called Amari.
“I need you to call the ambulance,” Champen said she told him. He asked why, and she replied, “I think I had a seizure and I need a doctor.” She told him not to be afraid, and he confidently responded that he “has been dealing with ambulances for six years.”
Champen, who said she has a type of epilepsy, was treated at A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital and released after a few hours. Medication is helping her out now, she said, and she remains amazed that Amari was able to help as he did.
“I was kind of stunned about how he reacted,” said Champen, 20, who works for Sunrise Catering and Dollar General and said she looks forward to studying at the State University College at Oneonta in the spring. Amari “completely deserved” the honors bestowed Tuesday, she said.
Amari’s mother, Alissa Valentine is a registered nurse who works as a case manager for At Home Care in Herkimer County. Valentine said she talked with Amari a couple of weeks ago about what to do if Champen had a seizure.
“I’m so proud of him,” said Valentine, who lives in West Winfield. Amari will be a first-grader at Mount Markham Central School, she said. Amari’s father, James Champen of Oneonta, works for Springbrook, she said.
Amari said on that Sunday he followed his cousin’s instructions and was glad when to know when she was okay. He said he was “a little nervous” when he had to wait with two police officers for a relative to pick him up after his cousin was taken to the hospital.
OPD officers Ryan Pondolfino and Charles Whitmore said they watched cartoons on television with Amari while they waited. Amari was “cool, calm and collected,” Pondolfino said, and they wrote the police chief a report about what a “cool call” they had that day.
“He’s a kid of few words, very mature,” Pondolfino said.
Joseph Valentine, Amari’s grandfather and a retired senior investigator with the state police at Oneonta, said Amari was pleased when he stopped by Cherry Street to pick him up.
“The look of relief on his face was priceless,” said “Gampa” Valentine, who quietly expressed pride.
“This child takes instruction rather well,” Amari’s grandfather said. “He amazes us pretty often.”
Outside the Oneonta Public Safety Building on Tuesday, Amari was congratulated individually by Nayor, Fire Chief Patrick Pidgeon and Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, and about 25 people, including relatives and others, listened.
Teaching children how to call 911 in an emergency is a lesson frequently given but sometimes a challenge even for older children, authorities said Tuesday. Amari’s mastery of the task and calm demeanor through the process was remarkable.
Herzig asked Amari what he would like to be when he grows up — police officer, firefighter or mayor?
Amari promptly replied that he wants to join the Coast Guard.
“I loved the water,” Amari said. “And I like to fish.”
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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