VALENCIA It took only seconds for the 4-year-old girl to capture the cop’s heart. MacKenzie Maier is beautiful, always dressed in pink – not so much because she’s a girlie girl, but because sometimes people think a little girl with very short hair might be a boy. MacKenzie, who turned 5 just last week, has been battling brain cancer since last October. She’s on the winning side of the fight now – declared cancer-free – but the rare neuroblastoma can recur, and her chore now is to regain her strength for a new round of medication to kill any new cancer cells. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 Sheriff’s Deputy Jeret Doiron met MacKenzie last winter when he was handing out small stuffed Santa Clauses to kids on his beat in Santa Clarita. He’s been drawn to the little girl and her family ever since. “I met them at Christmas and she broke my heart,” Doiron said. “I gave her a Santa and found out her situation. I fell in love with the little girl. “She wants to be a deputy sheriff when she grows up.” Tuesday was a belated birthday celebration for MacKenzie, who sat quietly in the family’s living room, her arms and legs crossed, her long-lashed eyes cast downward. Then her special friend showed up. “Hi, gorgeous,” Doiron said. “How are you?” MacKenzie’s shy around strangers, but she sat close to Doiron, offering soft smiles – rare these days but the kind that melt your heart. Doiron, a bachelor with no children of his own, read to MacKenzie and her 2-year-old sister, Madison, on the couch. He asked 10-year-old Mallory, the sister who helps keep things together for mom Teri, how things have been going. And then it was time to go shopping. Wearing a hot-pink jacket and skirt, with cheetah-pattern tights and shoes, MacKenzie strolled the aisles of Toys ‘R’ Us with Doiron, her mom and sisters in tow. She clutched the gift certificates he had given her for her birthday – a day she spent in the hospital for some extra nourishment as she fights to regain her strength. She didn’t run wild in the store – that was Madison’s job, with Mallory a step behind. The Monopoly Jr. Disney edition in the shopping cart was a nice start, but the excitement built as MacKenzie headed for the toy she really wanted: the Fisher-Price Star Station that hooks to the television and comes with song cartridges so MacKenzie can sing along and watch herself on TV. But it was Doiron, carrying his pal through the store, who had the biggest smile. “He’s been great,” Chuck Maier said of the deputy, who has become like a member of the family. “When she was coming home from her bone-marrow treatment, he came over and helped clean up. It had to be really clean for her. He … everyone’s been really nice.” MacKenzie is a frequent subject in briefings and e-mails at the Santa Clarita Valley sheriff’s station, where deputies have set up a bank trust to help the family cover expenses. They also bring meals to the Maiers. Now deputies are doing what they can to help the family. What’s amazing is this family, raked over the coals over the past year with MacKenzie’s illness, is turning the tables and planning the Mac Foundation, Make a Child Smile – a nonprofit agency to help other families make ends meet while spending time with their sick children. Chuck and Teri Maier want to help make it easier for families to spend time at the pediatric oncology ward, a place of such hope and despair. They want to help parents losing wages while their children are sick afford that special toy. They want to share a little of what Deputy Doiron brought their family. “When you go to the hospital, you see these kids who are alone,” Teri Maier said. “One dad could only spend an hour a week. That’s just not right.” Patricia Farrell Aidem, (661) 257-5251 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!