With rain falling outside Wednesday night, members of the Quarryville Police Department and Police Foundation gathered for a private memorial for Officer McGillicuddy, a 2.5-foot-tall, 330-pound miniature horse who captivated the hearts of the community and was the beloved companion of a little girl.
The memorial, held at the Quarryville Borough Building, included a bagpiper, speeches, prayers and a slideshow of the little horse, who was a sworn-in member of the police department.
“He was unique,” Quarryville Police Chief Rick Beighley said. “You don’t see a mascot or an officer of that nature.”
Officer McGillicuddy’s impact was evident as hundreds of condolences poured in since he died as a result of an accidental fall Oct. 15, Quarryville Mayor Anthony Cavallaro said.
Beighley, who is also a retired Lancaster city police officer with the mounted unit, was used to working with horses when he was first introduced to McGillicuddy. However, when Cavallaro approached him about swearing in the mini horse, he admitted it was different and unique.
But it was Officer McGillicuddy’s uniqueness that Beighley believed made him so impactful. Word of the tiny equine officer spread as far as Texas and Illinois, Beighley said.
While the public knew him for his public outreach as a “community relations specialist” with the police, McGillicuddy belonged to Maddie Cameron, 7, whose parents bought him to augment her therapy for spina bifida, a condition that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, affects the spine, keeping the column of bones that protect the spinal cord from forming as it should.
Maddie Cameron was first diagnosed when her mother was 20 weeks pregnant and underwent surgery inside the womb at 24 weeks, according to Maddie’s mother, Megan Cameron.
Cameron, who worked as a delivery nurse and said that she delivered many uncomplicated pregnancies, said the diagnosis terrified her at the time.
“I wouldn’t change a thing because I feel like that’s made her even more special and has really taught us a lot,” Cameron said.
Initially, doctors did not believe Maddie would ever be able to walk, Cameron said.
“When we first got him, she was just starting to walk without assistance,” Cameron said. “She liked leading him around more than riding him in the beginning. So she would lead him around a lot and that was really good for her de ella physical therapy de ella because we needed to try to get her to walk as much as we could. But since it was hard for her (to walk), this was something she wanted to do all the time.”
Maddie, who received the horse when she was a toddler, is the one who gave McGillicuddy his unique name. She did not attend the service.
“She really loved talking and big words when she was young,” Cameron said. “So before ella she would fall asleep ella she would say words to me and you’d have to whisper big words or ella she would want to learn how to say them. McGillicuddy became one of those words”
Maddie said she was happy to share her horse with the community and see him with the other kids.
It was Cameron’s brother and vice president of the Quarryville Police Foundation, Kirk Groves, who first suggested that McGillicuddy be used for community outreach.
“He was so good with kids and easy going,” Cameron said.
According to Cameron, the community support for the family has been immense since McGillicuddy died.
The Camerons have multiple horses, and both Megan Cameron and her husband grew up around horses. However, McGillicuddy held a special place for them that is not replaceable, Cameron said.
“People have asked if we are going to replace McGillicuddy,” Cavallaro said, “but he was too special to replace.”