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Police defense foundation chief secures visa for blind Dominican girl to have eye surgery


YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: The head of the National Police Defense Foundation secured temporary visas in the Dominican Republic yesterday that allow 13-month-old blind girl and her mother to come to the U.S. for emergency eye surgery on the child.

NPDF Executive Director Joseph Occhipinti said he is due to arrive at at Newark International Airport just before 4:30 today with Scarling Cabrera – known as “Baby Scarling” — and her mother.

Occhipinti said they will be met by various law enforcement officers and officials from, among other agencies, the New Jersey State Police, Port Authority Police of New York and New Jersey, and the Newark Police Department “who will provide a courtesy VIP escort to the Ronald McDonald House in New York City.”

“Baby Scarling,” who has been legally blind since birth, will be operated on by Brian Campolattaro, a pediatric ophthalmologist who is doing the surgery for free at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary on 14th Street in Manhattan. The operation is scheduled for next Wednesday.

Joseph Occhipinti with Baby Scarling, her mom and NPDF Delegate Jose Zhanay (far right)

Occhipinti secured the emergency medical visas after taking the child and her mother to the American Consulate in Santo Domingo yesterday. They were joined by NPDF Delegate Jose Zhanay.

The mission is part of “Operation Kids,” a child safety initiative of the National Police Defense Foundation that has made surgery possible for critically and severely handicapped children worldwide.

Occhipini said he learned of Baby Scarling while on a March mission to the Dominican Republic with Campolattaro.

The surgeon was unable to help her there, Occhipinti said, but believes he can successfully complete the work in the U.S.

The NPDF “agreed to secure the necessary visas and fund the entire cost of travel, lodging and related expenses,” Occhipinti said.

The NPDF is primarily dedicated to providing medical and legal support services to law enforcement officers in a dozen countries, including Ecuador.

But it also operates “Operation Kids,” which distributes free fingerprint kits to parents, posts rewards for missing children and runs the medical-care missions.

“We’ll fly anywhere in the world for a critically ill baby for a life-saving operation,” Occhipinti said.

Corporate sponsorships and other benefactors help fund operations for the 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation, which is a CLIFFVIEW PILOT sponsor ( SEE: National Police Defense Foundation ).

Occhipinti said he considers himself blessed by “the good will of the hospitals, doctors and donors” who have footed the bill for the missions, the treatment and other expenses. This “gives each one of these children a chance to enjoy a normal life,” he said.

It’s only fitting that a police-related organization does this work, Occhipinti said.

After all, he said, “police have always had a special love for protecting children.”


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