In law enforcement jargon, the message is clear: “I got your six.” For Adam Berg, it means so much more.
An ultimate show of support, the phrase adorns a fundraising T-shirt being ordered far and wide for Berg. The Swanton police chief has been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, a fight that will likely require substantial financial resources.
The black T-shirt, produced by Creative Designs of Archbold, features “I Got Your Six” – meaning “I have your back” – on the back side, displayed with a tattered American flag with one blue stripe representing law enforcement. The front of the shirt features a white ribbon symbolic of lung cancer awareness.
The fundraiser was created by Madelyn Griffin, a Wauseon police officer who is acquainted with Berg and learned of his illness through police channels. “We’re all family in law enforcement, so I thought I should do something,” she said.
Griffin made contact with Berg’s aunt, Veronica Rodriguez, a Fayette Local Schools employee, and proposed the fundraiser. Rodriguez, who accompanied Berg to a doctor’s appointment a couple of months ago and subsequently was told of his diagnosis, received his blessing for the project.
News of the T-shirt sale was placed on both Griffin’s and Rodriguez’s Facebook pages, then made its way to the Wauseon and Fayette police departments’ social media sites. The information spread quickly from there, and T-shirt orders are rushing in, some from as far as Indiana, Arkansas, and Colorado.
The $15 T-shirt will remain available only until April 10. It can be ordered through the Swanton, Wauseon, Archbold, and Fayette police departments or through firstname.lastname@example.org. Monetary donations are being accepted through an Adam Berg Fundraiser account at the Fayette branch of Sherwood State Bank, with checks made out to Samantha Canfield, Berg’s fiancee.
All proceeds go directly to Berg to assist with medical costs.
“If you choose not to buy a shirt, that’s fine, but if you could just say a prayer for Adam, that would be great,” Rodriguez said. “This is just an emotional roller coaster. I can only speak for myself, but I choose to speak positively.”
The police chief battled a persistent cough for a year before being diagnosed with stage four lung cancer Jan. 31. X-rays taken over the months showed lung inflammation but didn’t specifically point to cancer. Doctors treated him with steroids.
“Basically, I dealt with it. I tolerated the cough until it got worse,” Berg said.
It was when a nurse practitioner ordered a computerized tomography (CT) scan that Berg’s illness was revealed. At age 38, and as a non-smoker who grew up in a smoke-free household, the diagnosis blindsided him. “When you hear that news it’s a lot to process,” he said.
Fortunately, a relatively new medication named Alecensa was developed specifically for treating non-small cell lung cancer. Berg will take it in pill form twice a day for three months, then be assessed for its effectiveness. While not a cure, the drug has shown promising possible outcomes with more minimal side effects than chemotherapy.
“I feel confident that’s the best option for me right now,” Berg said.
The father of two plans to remain as Swanton’s police chief until and unless it’s no longer possible. “The village has been very supportive, and I’m very appreciative of that,” he said.
And while he approved the T-shirt fundraiser on his behalf, Berg is more than surprised by the response.
“I’m very appreciate that there’s so much support out there, even from complete strangers. It’s wonderful,” he said. “We don’t know what the future will bring, but it’s comforting to know there’s the support out there.”
He’s also touched by the daily words and actions of support and encouragement he’s received. “I’d like to thank everybody that’s helped, and showed compassion during this time. I greatly appreciate it,” he said.
No other fundraisers are currently scheduled for Berg but one may be organized this fall. Griffin said it’s important for Berg to know that his fellow officers, and the public, have got his “six.”
“We have to help him during this time. As law enforcement, we’re always there for each other, no matter what,” she said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.