A Bluffton teen fighting a rare and aggressive form of cancer was sworn in as an honorary officer with the Bluffton Police Department on Wednesday afternoon.
Michael Mugrage, 16, placed his hand on a Bible and took the oath of office at his home in front of about 30 officers and Mayor Lisa Sulka, according to the police department.
The surprise ceremony was arranged by Interim Bluffton Police Chief Scott Chandler and Bluffton Police Capt. Joe Babkiewicz, who got special approval from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy to swear in Mugrage.
“Welcome to the family, Michael,” Chander said as the rest of the room erupted in cheers.
Officers from the Hardeeville Police Department and the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office also witnessed the ceremony.
“After Michael was sworn in, every police officer that was there shook his hand,” said Joy Nelson, spokeswoman for the police department.
She said one of the more moving parts of the afternoon was when the last officer to shake Mugrage’s hand took off his “Blue Lives Matter” bracelet and put it on the teen’s wrist.
“I think we were all in tears at some point,” Nelson said.
Before Michael’s illness — and the intense chemotherapy and radiation treatments that followed his diagnosis — his favorite class in school was criminal justice.
“Michael had no idea we were coming,” said Nelson.
Members of the Bluffton Police Department have visited the teen in the hospital, staged a golf tournament fundraiser and have offered the teen, his mother and his younger brother support and encouragement.
For his 16th birthday in April, one of the department’s officers gave him a vehicle.
Mugrage has undergone months of therapy, including hospitalizations and surgeries.
His mother, Jessica Mugrage, in an update on a GoFundMe page set up for the family, wrote that as of last Wednesday, tests confirmed that her son’s cancer had spread “with a vengeance.”
She wrote that her son was home and receiving palliative care while they search for possible clinical trials.
“Michael does not want to stop fighting. He still wants a miracle so he can live,” she wrote. “He is hoping that if he participates in a trial, it may improve his quality of life and lessen his suffering, give him more time, and it would lead toward helping other children who are or will be affected by this terrible disease.”