Bordentown City Police Detective Justin Lewandowski first saw new residents Brianna Lemmo and her mother, Maria, walking down Veterans Way this past summer.
The mother and her 17-year-old daughter had just moved to Bordentown City from Trenton.
When Lewandowski saw the two ladies walking around Bordentown Beach a few weeks later, the he approached them to find out their situation.
It was then when Lewandowski learned that Brianna was suffering from Stage IV Hodgkin’s lymphoma and was having a hard time making friends in the area.
Bothered a lot by what he had heard on his way home that night, Lewandowski said he spoke to his wife about the situation and said he wanted to find a way to help Brianna and her mother.
“It was tough seeing someone go through something like that when they haven’t even started their life yet,” Lewandowski said of Brianna. “I wanted to lift her spirits up in some way and show her that someone was thinking of her.”
Trying to help out in any way, Lewandowski asked Maria what interests Brianna had. She mentioned that her daughter liked to read, so Lewandowski went out and got Brianna gift cards to Barnes and Noble.
Thinking about other avenues to help Brianna and her mother raise funds to help them pay off medical expenses and also repair Maria Lemmo’s car to take Brianna to her doctor visits and work, Lewandowski thought of another way to help the mother and daughter out.
That way involved the No Shave November fundraiser, an event that both the Bordentown Township and Bordentown City police departments have held the past few years.
The fundraiser has helped raise money for two children in the area the last two years who have been battling cancer.
Lewandowski suggested Brianna as a candidate for this year’s fundraiser to Bordentown Township Chief of Police Brian Pesce, and Pesce was all for using the event as way to raise money towards her cause.
“There is more meaning to benefiting someone locally in need,” Pesce said. “It’s another way for us to connect with our community. We wanted to do whatever we could to help Brianna and her mother.”
Brianna was grateful when she heard she was chosen as the beneficiary of the fundraiser and couldn’t have been more appreciative of the support of both police departments and the gifts she had received from Lewandowski.
“I’m honestly grateful that they picked me because of my situation and my mom’s car,” Brianna said. “It really helped us out and fixed the remaining parts on the car.”
The slogan “Beards for Brianna” was used for the fundraiser, which had around 25 police officers from both departments participating in the event, according to Pesce.
Officers, who must be clean shaven throughout the year, can grow facial hair during November while making a donation to the cause.
The charity officer fund donated $500 towards the cause, Pesce added.
As they have had in previous years, both police departments partnered up with a handful of restaurants in the Bordentown community to raise money for the fundraiser.
Jimmy’s American Grill, Old Town Pub, Chickie’s & Pete’s and Mario and Franks II all donated 10% of the proceeds they made on Nov. 24 to help Brianna battle cancer.
In total, the No Shave November fundraiser raised $4,000.
“We were ecstatic to present her with that much money,” Pesce said. “We had good participation throughout the community. It’s a tribute to our two police departments, our local businesses and the residents. We are so appreciative of all the support from our residents and local businesses.”
Both police departments presented the Lemmos with a check last week. It coincidentally happened on the same day Brianna finished her last round of chemotherapy treatments.
When she received the check from the police officers, Brianna said she was amazed with how much money both police departments were able to raise.
With many folks going through tough times because of the coronavirus pandemic, Brianna said she did not expect the fundraiser to raise more than $2,000 and is very grateful for the kindness the Bordentown community showed to support her and her mother.
“It was so awesome,” Brianna said happily. “The whole idea of seeing the community working together to help people in hard times is awesome and such an honor.”
Brianna is currently a senior at Bordentown Regional High School. She plans on studying criminology and minoring in criminal justice when she attends college as her dream is to be a FBI agent one day.
She said it was awesome to communicate with the police officers about day-to-day responsibilities and learn things from them on the experiences they have had on the force.
As for school, Brianna said she has enjoyed her time so far in the Bordentown Regional School District and said all her teachers have been so helpful throughout the first few months of the school year.
The support from the entire Bordentown community has been a true honor, in the words of Brianna.
“Bordentown is one big community,” she said. “Everyone is amazing.”
For more information on Brianna and to donate to her cause, visit www.gofundme.com/f/1zukih6940.