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Girl, 10, gets backup in battle against cancer

The Vargas family, from top left, father Gabe, daughter Roslyn and mother Juliana look on as daughter Taliana gives Rio Rancho Police Capt. Nicholas Onken a hug on Wednesday at Dion’s. Taliana has been fighting cancer for 16 months, and RRPD collected money to help with the family’s expenses and presented it to them Wednesday. Photo by Amy Byres.

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — One 10-year-old girl received a Rio Rancho Police pin for her bravery against cancer, as well as over $2,000 from department members.

Capt. Nicholas Onken of RRPD presented Taliana Vargas and her sister Roslyn Vargas with these pins Wednesday at Dion’s on High Resort Boulevard.

Taliana was battling cancer for over a year when RRPD heard about her story. Every November, RRPD employees donate to a fight against cancer to participate in “No-Shave November” by being allowed to grow beards or, in the case of females, temporarily dye their hair blue. The money raised is donated to a local family in need, Onken said.

“Whatever the amount is that comes in from their fundraising, it helps immensely. Whether it goes toward medical bills or goes toward bills for the home, utility, mortgage, anything, it’s just another month I am able to stay here and focus with Tali rather than working,” said Taliana’s father, Gabe Vargas.

RRPD and the Rio Rancho Police and Communications Association raised $2,657 for the Vargas family.

“I can’t imagine getting that news that your kiddo is suffering from something as scary as cancer. And so, we as an agency looked at all the nominations and it was weird, they all tugged at our heart, but …Tali’s was just one of those ones where we didn’t know why, but hers was the one,” Onken said.

Taliana and Rozlyn sat in a Dion’s booth laughing with RRPD Cpl. Ali Blake.

From left, sisters Roslyn and Taliana Vargas enjoy lunch with Rio Rancho Police Cpl. Ali Blake at Dion’s on High Resort Boulevard on Wednesday.

“Tali and Roz are really feeling fierce with their honorary badges and keep talking about how they want to dye their hair, just like Ali,” according to the Team Taliana Facebook page.

About 16 months ago Tali was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma, a cancer that develops in immature nerve cells and affects children, usually age 5 or younger, according to the Mayo Clinic website.

She endured five rounds of front-line chemotherapy, three rounds of immunotherapy with chemotherapy, 12 rounds of radiation, two stem-cells transplants and is finishing immunotherapy, Vargas said. January could be the end of treatment for Taliana, he said.

“It’s been very intense nonstop treatment for her,” Vargas said.

Taliana toured RRPD’s station in November, meeting officers for the first time and making new friends, she said.

Vargas said he felt very welcomed by RRPD and Taliana described the experience like seeing a friend.

“I think my favorite part was looking at the car and hitting all the buttons and honking the horn and turning on the siren,” Taliana said.

Gabe Vargas said the community has been overwhelming with its support.

“We have just been so happy and lucky that we found a place out here,” he said.

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