Courtesy of the Cliffview Pilot/Fort Lee Daily Voice

A young girl who tried to help restore another’s sight, a career public servant who coordinates life-saving operations for kids throughout the world and a highly respected career cop who helped raise the profile of the National Police Defense Foundation were among those honored by the NPDF at its annual awards dinner last night.
Honoree John Hickey (middle left) with NPDF Executive Director Joe Occhipinti ALL PHOTOS: JOSEPH CONWAY (NPDF Delegate/Photographer)
Tears, cheers and applause accompanied the tales of heroism, sacrifice and volunteerism by the honorees – among them, John A. DePrima, who heads the NPDF’s Operation Kids program and is solely responsible for coordinating life-saving surgeries in the U.S. for children who can’t get them in their own countries.

Operation Kids was the main theme of the evening, which included a special award given to 12-year-old Lillian Pravda.

Pravda created the Vision For and From Children Foundation after cataract surgery restored sight to her left eye. Her group has helped thousands of youngsters and their parents through visits and gifts aimed at reassuring everyone involved that everything, as Lillian says, “will be just fine.”

Lillian also helped arrange for an operation intended to help restore sight to 16-year-old Gladys Marivel Pomavilla Loja of Ecuador, who was blinded after her 9-year-old brother accidentally shot her in the back of her head.

Lillian Pravda with Occhipinti; BOTTOM: Scholarship winners
NPDF Executive Director Joe Occhipinti went to the Andes Mountains in Ecuador and brought Gladys and her father to the states, but doctors here said her condition is currently irreparable. However, surgeons said she could be a candidate for cornea transplants in a few years.

The foundation gave it Lifetime Achievement Award to retired NYPD Detective John M. Hickey , who served as the NPDF’s vice president for 15 years. Hickey worked homicide – and was instrumental in solving the murders of Police Officers Chris Hoban and Mike Buczek, pursuing the killers internationally.

“His diligence and commitment to duty were recognized with many awards for valor and meritorious police duty,” the NPDF said. “He performed selfless humanitarian acts for the welfare of his fellow law enforcement community and has been a strong advocate for the NPDF Operation Kids and Safe Cop programs.”  <– Read more