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Beards for Brothers helps local officer with Stage 4 cancer

WEST HEMPFIELD TOWNSHIP, Lancaster County -- In the month of November, you might have seen some police officers around Central Pennsylvania drop the razor and grow a beard.

In doing so, raising money for one of their own.

This is the fifth year for Beards for Brothers, but just the fourth year helping a fellow first responder in the battle with cancer.

Taking the lead, East and West Hempfield Township Police joined forces, working together to spread the word throughout Lancaster County.

“You don’t even have to grow a beard. It's not about the beard. It’s about raising money to help a first responder and their family fight this battle with cancer,” said Officer Rich Bowermaster, of West Hempfield Township Police.

A 25-year veteran of law enforcement, a Volunteer Firefighter for 23 years and an Emergency Medical Technician for 7 years, Officer Wendell Metzler, of New Holland Police, didn't have a single sign or symptom until this summer.

In June, he was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma cancer.

Officer Metzler was nominated by his fellow officers to be this year's recipient.

Little did he know that he would be the one in need, after donating in prior years.

“When you’ve been through this journey I’ve had this summer. I wasn’t sure I’d be around for Christmas this year and with the stresses of treatments and everything. It’s just nice to know you have a brotherhood out there looking out for your back,” said Officer Wendell Metzler, of New Holland Police.

In late June, Officer Metzler was on vacation when he had extreme pain to where he could not even walk.

He was admitted to Lancaster General Hospital for a week to manage the pain and figure out what his diagnosis could be.

“I can only imagine what the people before me, the other recipients, and how they felt and how they were touched by the donors and all the people who make up this organization," said Officer Metzler.

“It feels great to help somebody. Whether a first responder or not it feels good to help someone and that’s what life should be about," said Officer Bowermaster.

Officers from 17 police departments in Lancaster County, along with other first responders and businesses, took part in "No Shave November."

This year, raising nearly $13,000.

“Just glad to be back to work. Hopefully, I get to finish out my career and continue to be a donator of this program because it’s touched me and my family an awful lot,” said Officer Metzler.

He was presented with a check for $10,000 for medical bills.

The rest of the money is donated to a local non-profit called "A Week Away Foundation," helping families with life-threatening illnesses.

“We feel that first responders donate so much of their own time working midnights, working holidays," said Officer Bowermaster.

Still fighting with a smile, Officer Metzler was able to say, with treatment, the cancer shrunk by 50 percent.

Beards for Brothers hopes more will join the fight next year and help exceed their goal of $20,000. They're hoping to become a non profit.