Vermont State Police trooper Todd Baxter has spent more than 30 years working among some of Vermont’s most vulnerable populations.
Now, he’s the one with a sizable support network, which mobilized after he was diagnosed with cancer.
Baxter, an Elmore resident who’s a lieutenant with the state police Major Crime Unit, was diagnosed with cancer after noticing a lump on his neck. He had one surgery at the University of Vermont Medical Center, and is now getting further treatment at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
Some friends and colleagues over the weekend launched a fundraiser on GoFundMe. It aims to raise $30,000 but, as of press time, that total had already been eclipsed.
Baxter faces high out-of-pocket expenses for the treatment, and for travel and lodging costs for the several months he’ll need to stay in Boston.
“He’s a pretty rugged dude,” said Todd Shove, the Lamoille County state’s attorney who used to work with Baxter in the county’s Special Investigations Unit, and who lives near him on a dirt road in Elmore. Their kids play hockey together.
“If anyone can tackle this, it’s Todd Baxter,” Shove said.
In his police work, Baxter is the one who’s taken the hardest cases, Shove said. He spent years working with the Lamoille Special Investigations Unit, which often deals with violent cases, sometimes sexual, involving youth and women.
Shove said Baxter is a tenacious investigator who works hard and asks a lot of questions. But since many victims are vulnerable, he also has a gentle touch.
“Todd has always had a pretty good knack for balancing that,” Shove said. “He’s a standup guy, and a hell of a detective.”
Lamoille County Sheriff Roger Marcoux said he works with Baxter on cases, and said Baxter knows how to switch from work to play. He and Baxter’s kids are also of a similar age.
“What’s impressed me most is that, despite being tasked with one of the toughest units to deal with, he makes time for his kids,” Marcoux said.
Baxter worked out of and with the Morristown Police Department for several years as a member of the state police Bureau of Criminal Investigations, and Morristown Chief Richard Keith said he’s a gifted police officer and, even more importantly, a good person. Keith said he and his officers all participated in the GoFundMe campaign for Baxter and his family.
“He’s a great guy. Very talented, a gifted investigator,” Keith said. “I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Keith said Baxter has helped the department with many cases and was “always there to lend a hand,” even after he was transferred out to the state police major crimes unit. He still stops by the station from time to time to check in.
Keith and the rest of the Morristown department share another bond with Baxter. Most Morristown officers are avid hunters, and so is Baxter.
“He’s a great hunter,” Keith said with a bit of an envious laugh.
Baxter would prefer to deflect attention from him to the innumerable Vermonters who step up for their neighbors in need. He said he’s not the only one with cancer out there.
“This whole thing has been very humbling and overwhelming,” he said. “The real story is the generosity of people.”
For Baxter, that point was driven home nearly the moment after he was released from the hospital after his initial surgery. He was at a drugstore and ran into Shelley Nolan, a board member for the Lamoille Area Cancer Network, and they exchanged pleasantries. She joked that he looked a little banged up, and wondered what the other guy looked like. He told her he had cancer.
“She was like, ‘Give me your address. You’re gonna get a check in the mail. You’re not going to want it, but take it,’” he said.
Baxter said he’s long supported the Lamoille Area Cancer Network, which provides small “grants” to cancer patients, survivors and their families to help alleviate the stress of going through treatment.
“To be a part of it and be the recipient, though? That was just amazing,” he said.
Baxter is reluctant to have his name attached to a fundraiser like this, but agreed to talk so that other people can see that the community takes care of it own. Like his fellow police officers, who set the thing up in the first place.
He told them he didn’t want them to do it, and they told him, “You can’t do it on your own. You should just sit back and let this happen.”
He hopes other people who hear about the fundraiser for him will be inspired to do good for someone else. “This isn’t just about me,” he said. “Get out there and help your neighbors.”
Andrew Martin contributed to this report.