PEPPERELL — The members of the Pepperell Police Department will not be growing their traditional November beards this year, as they instead will be staying clean shaven to support their extended family’s newest member, Reece Zink.
Normally, Pepperell officers are given an exemption from the department’s grooming policy and grow beards during the month of November to benefit charity. This year, officers will instead stay baby faced to raise awareness for baby Reece’s fight against the rare genetic mutation STXBP1 Encephalopathy.
The disorder often causes complications like seizures, developmental delays, ataxia, limited speech, difficulty walking, difficulty eating and more.
Reece is the newborn son of Officer Justin Zink, who joined the department in that role in 2018 after several years as a dispatcher, firefighter and emergency medical technician in Pepperell.
“We’re all honored to do what we can to support Officer Zink and his family however we can,” Chief Scott said, “Our entire department decided that the biggest impact they could make this November was to focus their traditional fundraising on Reece and his family.”
Officers will make donations this year, as they have to charitable organizations in the past, but this year the donations will benefit a GoFundMe established to benefit the Zink family and Reece’s care. The GoFundMe has so far raised nearly $40,000 of the $100,000 goal. To donate, click here.
On Sept. 11, two days after Reece’s birth, Zink was named the department’s Officer of the Year. He was recognized for his work and dedication to the Pepperell community, including his work authoring grants for traffic safety and equipment to help officers stay safe from COVID-19.
“Officer Zink has made tremendous contributions to our community and our department,” Chief Scott added, “and I know that he and his family are tremendously appreciative of the amazing outpouring of love and support from the Pepperell community.”
Town employees have volunteered to donate their time off to Officer Zink so he can spend more time with his family, while businesses have also stepped up to help out, including Pepperell C&S Pizza which announced that 10% of its proceeds from sales on Oct. 29 will benefit the Zink family.
The decision to remain beardless this year is also motivated by the need to help officers stay safe from COVID-19, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has indicated that beards can hinder an N95 respirator’s ability to form a strong seal and prevent the spread of viruses and germs.
If anyone would like to donate to the Zink family, the GoFundMe page can be found here.