ST. LOUIS COUNTY ( -- The first day of kindergarten had a special meaning for one West County family. 

The walk to school in a Chesterfield neighborhood was a little different on Monday morning for 5-year-old Carmine Mattaline. 

He has autism and someone needs to be holding his hand while walking to school. But his father, police officer Andy Mattaline, was recently diagnosed with cancer and underwent a serious surgery two weeks ago. He's only seen Carmine twice since and he certainly wasn't planning one missing his boy's first day of kindergarten. 

"This is one of my biggest days and I just didn't want to miss this," Andy Mattaline said. "He means the world to me. We've been through a lot together."

Doctors at SLU hospital saw the importance of this milestone and allowed Andy Mattaline to leave the hospital. In his wheelchair, Andy Mattaline arrived to his neighborhood and was greeted by a squad of fellow officers in uniform who volunteered to be there for Carmine Mattaline when they thought the father couldn't be there. 

"It's an overwhelming amount support that I just can't process right now," Andy Mattaline said. "I just love the support ... I can't thank anybody enough."

All two dozen of them walked shoulder-to-shoulder with Carmine Mattaline and his father all the way up to school.

"We decided we need to pay it back to him and be here for his family," officer Chris Kaatman said.

Surrounded by love and support, Carmine Mattaline made it to school on time.

"I just can't wait to release him into the world," Andy Mattaline said. "To his first step to transition into becoming something we all want to see him flourish into." 

Andy Mattaline has a little more time left for recovery before he can be home with his children for good.

Copyright 2019 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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