Community supports its resource: Officer Lannon
Holmes Beach Police Officer Pete Lannon has been a fixture at Anna Maria Elementary School for the past seven years where he has taught students much more than just Drug Awareness Resistance Education.
He's been more than just a school resource officer at AME, he's been an active member of the Island community doing, as his friend Joy Murphy puts it, "more than just his job."
"He'll jump in and volunteer just because he wants to," she said.
And now the Island community is coming together to support Lannon and his family as he undergoes further medical evaluations to determine treatment options for pancreatic cancer.
Lannon has been out of work for eight weeks and AME Principal Kathy Hayes said she recently learned that doctors located a tumor on Lannon's pancreatic gland.
"Though the type of tumor and treatment plan has not yet been determined, we do know that medical intervention will require a lengthy period of time," Hayes said. "Our staff is deeply saddened by Pete's illness and we're concerned about how to provide financial assistance to him and his family."
Lannon and wife Debbie have three children - a 23-year-old son, a daughter attending college and the youngest, a son, still in elementary school. AME has established an account at Wachovia Bank in Holmes Beach in which donations for the family are being accepted.
Other community members and organizations are planning fundraisers for the family. On behalf of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, Cindy Thompson said that 100 percent of the proceeds collected from the children's area at its Bayfest event Oct. 21 in Anna Maria will be contributed to the Lannon family.
"He has done so much for our community and he has given so much for our kids," Thompson said.
Thompson advised that in addition to meeting the cost of ongoing medical treatment, the family provides for their daughter's college tuition and carries two home mortgages, and both homes are up for sale.
Both Thompson and Murphy said many people have come forward with an interest in helping the family since learning of his diagnosis a week ago. For this reason, a community committee is being organized through AME.
A spaghetti dinner will be held Oct. 19 at St. Bernard Catholic Church from 5 to 8 p.m. with entertainment by Jimi Gee and the Edison Swinging Rhythm Cats. All proceeds will go to the family, said Jamie Walstad one of the event's organizers.
On Oct. 22, Dina Stewart and Danielle Seawall will offer discounted spa treatments to raise funds in Bradenton Beach. To make a spa appointment, call 650-5441. On the same day, "Pete's Teens," a group of Island teens who completed the DARE program, will hold a car wash.
In addition, a walk-a-thon is being organized in November that will raise money to help the Lannons keep up with their bills.
Anyone interested in joining the community committee should call AME at 708-5525.
According to Murphy, Lannon wants to get back to work teaching the DARE program to his students. "He said he has been looking forward to the plans he had for his DARE program this year," she said.
However, there is no word yet on if Lannon will return to work. According to Walstad, Lannon has used his vacation time and has concerns about providing for his family.
He has always been accessible to students as a confidant, mentor and friend. He has noted in the past that students pick on him for his Rhode Island accent, but are always respectful.
Lannon has said he knew he wanted to be a cop as a young kid. His great-grandfather, grandfather, uncles, cousins and dad were all cops.
Prior to coming to Anna Maria Island, Lannon spent seven years in the military police to gain experience before taking a job in a small town in North Carolina and winding up here.
In the face of this current challenge, Murphy said, "Pete is still Pete. He still has his sense of humor and is trying to be positive and look at it in the best light possible - and fight with all he has."
In keeping with the wishes of the Lannon family, Hayes said the school is taking great care in how information is shared with students. A box has been set up in the school administrative office to collect letters and cards for Lannon.