Wilton Police raise thousands for officer battling cancer: ‘They are my brothers and sisters’

Photo of J.D. Freda

WILTON — The community and members of the Wilton Police Department have rallied around a beloved officer battling breast cancer.

“To have everybody come together now to just help and support me, it just warms my heart,” said School Resource Officer Elise Ackerman Monday evening, just days after her department and members of the community rallied to organize a benefit and fundraiser for her.

Ackerman, a member of the Wilton Police Department since 2014, was diagnosed with cancer in August 2021. Near the start of her treatment, a number of her fellow police officers, as well as town firefighters, shaved their heads to show support for the beloved first responder. The department also set up a GoFundMe page, which as of Tuesday has raised more than $48,500 of its $50,000 goal.

The benefit at Trumbull’s Tashua Knolls on Friday drew more than 150 attendees and featured auctions and raffles with donations from local businesses.

Wilton Police Lt. David Hartman, one of the organizers of the event, said that the total raised from the event has not yet been fully tallied, but expects a sum near $21,000 to be added to the money raised online. He said that the response is indicative of what Ackerman means to not only her colleagues but the greater community.

“She is amazing,” Hartman said Monday.

Hartman also serves as the Police Benevolent Association president for the Wilton Police and is often tasked with planning events and carrying out initiatives. Ackerman has been one person he has constantly relied on to give him a helping hand.

“Elise is one of the people I know I can go to without fail and, if she is available, she will donate her time to get involved,” Hartman said. “She is always willing to give herself to make the department or community better.”

He said that he felt incredibly grateful to plan something for Ackerman specifically and provide support to someone he felt has given so much time and attention to others. He added he wished it was under different circumstances though.

Ackerman, a Norwalk resident, said she was drawn to Wilton because of the “closeness of the community.”

“(Wilton) is not just a place that I work, it is a big part of my life,” Ackerman said, noting that she used to bring her children to Wilton events before she even began working as a police officer in town. “It is a very special place for me.”

Hartman recalled his speech from the benefit. “One thing I talked about is that, as first responders, we are usually on the other end of the phone of people who say they need help,” Hartman said. “Now, one of our own is on the other side, asking for help.” He said that could be a difficult position for a first responder to be in, as they are not usually sitting on that side.

The one thing was certain to Hartman and the rest of the department, though, was that they would pick up that call and Ackerman was candid that she is forever grateful.

“They are my family. Most I knew before I was even a police officer. They are my brothers and sisters,” Ackerman said. “This really means more than they know.”

Those who wish to donate may do so on the official GoFundMe page at https://bit.ly/33lTCxJ.