Local 7-Year-Old Battling Rare Cancer Receives Generous Gift from Local Police

Last Edited:

Christmas came early for a South Jersey seven-year-old with retinoblastoma, a rare childhood cancer of the eye, after he inspired his heroes to be "Joey Strong."

Dozens of Cape May County police officers put down their razors for the month to grow out their beards and raise money to help a Dennis Township boy as he finishes up his treatment. The concept of "No Shave November" is dedicated to growing and embracing hair, which many cancer patients lose, as they fight their battle against the disease.

We put a challenge out to all the other agencies, everybody got on board, started raising money, and growing beards, and you know [it] turned out to be a great day, and we raised almost, just shy of $18,500,” said Wildwood Police Chief Robert Regalbuto.

The thousands of dollars raised will now benefit Joey Povio, who suffers from retinoblastoma and is the grandson of Avalon’s police chief, as he begins the last stages of his treatment.

In July we went to the eye doctor routinely, and he complained of having some floaters in his eye. Long story short, it turned out it was a tumor pressing on his optical nerve and causing his retina to detach,” said Chrissy Povio, Joey's Mother. 

According to his mother, Joey needed six rounds of full body chemo, which he finished the day before Thanksgiving. He still has to get less intense injections of chemo directly into his eye to help with the loose particles of the tumor. And with a constant stream of medical bills, some of which are not covered by their health insurance, the funds raised by the Cape May County police officers will help the Povio family pay for the final stages of treatment.

The best part is just seeing that Joey is doing well, you know, and that the family is happy. The family sees our support and that they know we’re behind them. That’s the most important part," said Chief Regalbuto.

And although Joey and his family were happy to see their heroes with beards of all shapes and sizes, the officers were just as excited to see their little hero.

“One of the police officers, he’s my best friend's dad, and he’s my really best friend, and I really like him,” said Joey.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 200 to 300 children are diagnosed with retinoblastoma in the United States each year. However, now that the young boy is moving into his last phases of treatment, he’s proving to everyone just how “Joey Strong” he is.

That’s kind of a good motto for all of us now, you know, when you think you want to give up, look at him and everything he’s been through. If he can do that, we can get through this," said Joey's Mom.

SNJ Today is a Southern New Jersey news and information source based in Millville, New Jersey that is dedicated to providing current stories related specifically to South Jersey.

Do you have community news or events? Email news@snjtoday.com, text SNJNews to 313131, or call 856.825.NEWS (6397).