Today, was an amazing day. I posted a photo album with the pictures of our time together.
I wrote a story in the one below this one explaining my decision to go public about funds I donate. You can also read the story published in a Georgia newspaper in this story I am now writing. Since I decided to donate more funds while I’m alive, I contacted the fire chiefs I knew in South Carolina and Georgia and asked them to find other departments in serious need of life saving equipment, and they did. I called each fire chief and asked them to email a list to me with what they needed, the cost, and why they needed the items. When I read their lists and the reasons, I was sad and happy. I was sad that they are so underfunded and don’t have basic items such as bunker gear so they could go into a building or fight a fire, that their nozzles don’t always work, so if they go to a fire maybe the nozzle couldn’t get the job done to extinguish a fire, and so many other stories. I was glad that I would be able to help them. One of the departments gave such a great list, they even provided the names of the companies they wanted to order from, one of which is Fire Dex, one of their products is bunker gear. So, I went online and found a contact number for the senior regional sales manager for Fire Dex in the Georgia and South Carolina area, he actually answered the phone, and I told him who I was and what I was doing and asked if his company can help me. Coincidence… I don’t think so, he told me that he used to live in Deerfield Beach many years ago. After discussing my mission to help the fire departments, Mr. Rom told me what his company would do to help me make sure that the fire departments had the bunker gear they needed. THANK YOU Fire Dex and Ten 8 for your help in protecting the lives of firefighters so they can help others.
It turns out the same day as the article came out in the Georgia newspaper is the same day that I received the requests from three fire departments in Georgia. Several times that evening I was talking with the three fire chiefs to determine their most critical needs and after we got it figured out I told them I would send them a check. I was awake about 2 a.m. when my phone let me know that I had an email. It was from Chief Dent, he was on shift and wrote that he and his firefighters decided they wanted to come meet me, not to get a check, but just to meet me because I wanted to help them and other nearby departments. I told him that it’s a long way down here, but he didn’t care. He said he would drive any distance to meet me. I was so moved, I cried. Then in the morning I received emails from the other two chiefs that they heard Chief Dent was coming and they wanted to also. So they all let me know that they and some of their firefighters would be arriving the morning of July 8th. They left about 2 a.m. so they could be here in the morning.
Wanting to make a special memory for our time together, I was trying to figure out what to do about lunch. At first I thought about a picnic at the beach, then not knowing what the weather would be, I decided to have lunch at a restaurant at the beach where we could look at the ocean while we ate. I went to JB’s on the Beach, and while I was looking at a menu, a gentleman came up and asked if he could help me. His name is Scott Moen and he’s the General Manager of the restaurant. I told him about my mission of helping the volunteer fire departments, and that about 10 firefighters were coming to meet me on July 8th and asked about having the luncheon at his restaurant. After we talked a while and I showed him the article in the Georgia newspaper, Scott told me that he used to be a volunteer firefighter in a northern state. I could tell that he still has a special place in his heart and spirit for firefighters. Scott told me that he would be honored to host our luncheon and that JB’s would provide our lunch as their guests. WOW… I did not expect that. Another huge blessing. THANK YOU JB’s on the Beach.
I know from all the little things that I could not have planned, imagined, or dreamed, that this adventure with the firefighters and all that is related to it is due to Divine Intervention, God’s Plan. In fact, one day as all this was being planned, I went and got some Chinese food. The fortune in my cookie said “Your life is becoming more and more of an adventure.” I just laughed… once again, I knew I was on the correct path. Having a purpose that is so important to me has definately prolonged my life. I am being kept so busy I don’t have time to sit around doing nothing. I’m so grateful I am having a good day so far today, not much pain, so I can be at the library and write some of my stories, I was really getting behind.
So, on Monday, July 8th, about 9:30 a.m. the firefighters arrived. I was so happy, and to think they drove about 450 miles one way just to see me… I felt so humble and grateful. We met in a nearby park and had a chance to visit before going to have lunch. It was nice getting to know they and talk face to face rather than on the phone and by email. After our time together, we are now all friends and even feel like a special family. A few days later, because I wasn’t sure I would have time to write a story about our time together, I asked the three chiefs to write a story for me to post about what this experience was for them, what they felt, thought, etc. One of the chiefs wrote something I had not even thought of, he said while they were driving down they did not know what to expect when they met me. All they knew about me was that I was a terminally ill woman wanting to help them. He wrote something to the effect that he was surprised to find an energetic, friendly, spunky woman… me… I never thought of myself as spunky… I like that word. I didn’t realize that they might think of me as frail and sickly. As I’ve written in previous stories, no one looking at me would know what’s going on inside my body. Anyway, I’m glad I can have an outward appearance of being somewhat healthy looking, and having a positive attitude.
A few days before the fire chiefs and firefighters arrived we all discussed whether or not it would help bring awareness if we notified a local newspaper in hopes of a story being written. Since a Georgia newspaper already wrote one, it would not be something new. After much discussion, we decided that I would contact a reporter I knew from when I worked in a city to see if he was interested in the story. After the reporter named Larry and I spoke about what I was doing and the reason to write the story, he said he would check with the editor and let me know. He called me Monday morning and said they would like to write a story about us for the Sun Sentinel. So, during our lunch a photographer came to take pictures. When we went out on the back porch of JBs on the Beach the Goodyear blimp happened to be flying over… how cool was that… another coincidence??? I think not!!!
Presentation of a donation check was made to Chief Altman first, he did not know in advance how much I was donating to his department, nor what equipment he would be able to purchase. I could tell by his and Shannon’s expression that they were in shock. I cried watching them, knowing what the donation meant to them, what equipment it would allow them to buy to serve their communities. It was more than his entire annual budget. I know all of these volunteer departments do fundraisers, but it takes them a long time to raise money for the equipment they need. They also have regular jobs and volunteer their time to help others. Chief Altman told everyone what he would now be able to buy and what it means to his department and its members.
Next, I presented a check to Chief Dent, he also had the same shocked reaction. And once again, I knew what it meant to his department. After the initial shock wore off Chief Dent was able to explain what his department would be able to buy and what it means to his department. He told of a time when there was a fire and his department responded but only two firefighters had gear so they were not able to go into the fire to save someone and there was a fatality. I felt so sad, I know it touched all of our hearts deeply, now his members can have bunker gear to help save not only their lives, but the lives of others.
As I was getting ready to present a check to Chief Truman, Chief Dent told me to wait, they had something for me. Some of the firefighters came towards me and presented me with t-shirts, a picture of one of the fire departments with their members in front of their fire truck, and a bright, shiny, new, fire helmet with the logos of their departments on it, along with signatures of the fire chiefs and their members. I just cried. That picture that made the front page of the Sun Sentinel and it is now global thanks to it being spread on the Internet. When I was able to stop crying long enough to talk, and the initial shock wore off… I said to the chiefs, something to the effect that fire gear is so precious to all of you and you are giving me a new helmet. I felt so honored and proud, and yes in shock. I said that I would cherish it and wear it proudly, along with my t-shirts, (I love t-shirts).
Then, I presented Chief Truman with his donation and he also told the others what he could buy for his department. I also gave his city some extra so they could buy library books, and the police chief was able to buy two bulletproof vests he needed for his officers. Chief Truman called me an angel… I love angels, and I’m proud to be one for the volunteer firefighters. I know they are all angels for the people they help.
After the shock wore off a bit, and the happy tears stopped, we went inside to enjoy our time together and eat lunch. My friend Pam, my mother Florence, and my sister Alice joined us for lunch. They were happy to be sharing this special time with all of us. Larry from the Sun Sentinel sat with us and interviewed the chiefs for the story. We had no idea what he was going to write, but we were very grateful that the newspaper decided to share our story, especially if it meant bringing awareness to others. We had no idea of how the story would take on it’s own life. Once it was on the online version of the Sun Sentinel fire rescue sites picked it up somehow and posted it on their sites and Facebook pages. I would get texts throughout the night from Chief Dent on how many likes it had. He said it received in just a few hours more likes than his month long win the boot campaign.
I looked at the Fire Rescue 1 Facebook page the other day, thanks to a friend lending me their password since I don’t have a Facebook account, and there were about 3,370 likes, and over 140 comments, and I think over 780 shares. It’s on other sites as well, so our mission of bringing awareness of the needs of volunteer fire departments is being accomplished. We all feel good about going public with this since it has served a purpose. Some of my friends are making donations to the volunteer departments in my honor now, not waiting until it’s in memory of me. Others are forwarding the stories to their friends, and one of my friends sent it to her friends overseas. I have been contacted by several Florida government agency publications that they are going to print the story in their publications. I hope that when government agencies around the country read the stories that they will allocate more money to their volunteer fire departments. They want them to be available to help save lives and property in their communities, they need to give them funds to do it. They don’t pay the volunteers, the least they can do is help them to have the equipment they need. One department receives $1,600 a year, his community has about 360 residents who are mostly elderly or low income. How can any department operate on that amount, it includes fuel and maintenance for the vehicles, utilities, and if any funds are left closer to the end of the budget year, maybe they can buy equipment. By the way, one set of bunker gear on the lower end of the cost scale is $1,400. A nozzle for a hose is between $655 and $855 on the lower end of the cost scale.
After we finished with lunch, my guests left. The chiefs, their firefighters, and I went a bit further down the beach so we could visit a while longer before they headed back home. It is about an 8 hour drive one way. The chiefs told me that everyone brought their helmet and that they wanted to take a picture of all of us wearing our helmets. I was really surprised and touched that they all brought their helmets. So we went by the beach and put on our helmets, me for the first time… it was so cool… I was so proud to wear it. Chief Dent’s wife Lindsay took our picture.
Then Chief Dent handed me his helmet and a sharpie and asked me to sign my name on his helmet. I told him that it’s white and there are no signatures of anyone on it. He insisted that he wanted me to sign it, so I wrote Carol on the back of it. The other chiefs asked me to as well, so I did. The firefighters asked the chiefs if I could sign their helmets too and they said yes, so I did. Wow, what an honor. They said this way I would always be with them.
We were saying our goodbyes and getting ready to leave, when Chief Truman took a red tag off the back of his helmet and he hooked it on the brass ring on the back of my helmet. I asked what it was and he said an accountability tag. I asked what that was and he said when a firefighter goes into a structure fire they take the tag off the back of their helmet and put it on a board at the scene. That way anyone looking at the board knows how many firefighters are in the structure and who they are. Fire Chiefs are always Number 1, it’s on their helmets, badges, etc. They put a Number 01 on my helmet, boy what an honor. Anyway, I told Chief Truman that it’s his tag that he should keep it. He insisted that it remain on my helmet. I just cried more tears… it’s been an emotional day for all of us. Almost all of us shed happy tears. So we hugged and said our goodbyes and they left.
For several days afterward whenever I was in contact with Chief Truman I told him I wanted to send his #1 tag back and he said no, I asked if he has a new one and he said it’s #47. I was told I’m their #1 Angel and that tag is for me.
So, I get home from this incredible day, very emotional as it was, and I find a box by my front door. When I get inside I open the box and it’s 9 CDs from a musician/composer that I have listened to for over 13 years named Kevin Kern. His piano music has always been so comforting to me, it is so peaceful and relaxing. On July 4th I decided that since Kevin’s music has been such a calming influence on me and it’s effect is immediate, that as I am transitioning that its the only music I want played for me. I went on www.kevinkern.com on July 4th and sent a message on his Contact button, thinking that it would go to a PR person and I wasn’t sure if the message would get to him. I wrote how much Kevin’s music has meant to me over the years, what I am going through now, and about how that’s what I want to listen to as time is now passing. Big Surprise… within a couple of hours my phone rang and it was actually Kevin Kern himself. He got my message and he called me to tell me how much it meant to him and how humble he felt by it. He said they don’t usually get to know how much their music touches others. He said he would send me some of his CDs on Tuesday. Here it was Monday, and I opened the box to find 9 autographed CDs. I cried some more happy tears. Looking at my helmet, listening to Kevin’s music… I was just so emotional, I can’t even find the correct words to describe it.
Please go to Kevin Kern’s website, www.kevinkern.com, and read about this remarkable man and what he’s accomplished. I wish I could have met him in person to hear one of his concerts and thank him for all his music has meant to me for so many years. I saw that in September he will be in Asian countries, and even performing on my birthday which is September 26th. I sent him a message that I will be there in spirit.
As a side note, I gave Chief Dent checks to bring back for other departments, and also I sent some to Chief Caruso in South Carolina which he distributed on the same day as I did with the Georgia chiefs. I was glad they got to have the experience of being on the giving side instead of the receiving side.
Chief Duncan in Georgia received a donation check and he found a Jaws of Life on Ebay and it turns out it was in a city near where I live, so he and his wife Joy came down a few days after the Georgia chiefs were here, so I got to meet him and have time with him and his wife. JBs on the Beach provided a lunch for us and Scott Moen was working that day so he was able to stop by and visit with us and talk with Chief Duncan, we all enjoyed that special time together. Thank you again, Scott and JBs on the Beach.
A few days after the Sun Sentinel article came out, Channel 4 contacted my mother trying to get in touch with me. They wanted to do a story about me for their station. She wanted to come out on Wednesday night to do a story, I told her that was not a good time to meet with her and told her about Chief Duncan coming on Friday. So we arranged for her and her cameraman to come to JBs on the Beach to do the story. There is a link below for that story and the video broadcast. They did a pretty good job editing it, I never expected it to be on TV. I really didn’t want to be on TV, but for the good of the cause I agreed and so did Chief Duncan.
After we finished lunch we went by the Goodyear blimp base, and got there just as it was landing and we got to see the next group of passengers get on and then watch it take off again. I know Chief Duncan and Joy were thrilled to get their photo taken with the blimp in the background.
The really special part of that experience was meeting a man named David Nicholson who is the true meaning of a hero. We know that we were all supposed to meet at that exact time and place. David told us about his life, he lost both of his legs in Afghanistan, he was assigned to a blimp and saved hundreds of soldiers. He told us how he called the military and said he wanted to serve to save soldiers lives. He wanted to do something that would make a difference now, not years later. We all felt honored to meet David. You can read more about this incredible man here and here.
Madray Springs Volunteer Fire Department in Georgia submitted a video in hopes of winning 10 pair of boots for their department. They were notified recently that they won the boots. Check out their video on Utube… it will make you laugh. I watch it every now and then and it’s still funny. Patty, one of their firefighters is the lady making believe that her cat is in the tree. Chief Ashley Dent is the driver of the fire truck and is wearing a blue baseball cap.
In the news
Below are the links to several articles that have been written on our story. Feel free to share it with others.
Another nice story recently appeared in Georgia’s Coastal Courier newspaper. The real joy comes not from any publicity, but simply from being able to help others.
Update July 12th: Somehow Fire Rescue 1 picked up the Sun Sentinel story and put it on their Facebook page where it received over 3,000 likes. Here is a link to their online magazine page where they also posted the story. Fire Rescue 1 Magazine Online
Here is the Fire Rescue 1 Facebook page with my story, and there were over 3,300 people who liked this story, and hundreds who shared it and posted comments. I feel so proud, humble, and honored. It really touched my heart.
Update July 15th: The story was also posted on Fire Behavior Magazine Online
Update July 18th: Heartfelt thanks to Lighthouse Point City Commissioner and columnist Sandy Johnson for writing this article in a local newspaper.
Update July 19th: Chief Derrick Duncan drove down from southeast Georgia and CBS Miami did a really nice story on us. You can watch the video here.
Watch the Madray Springs VFD We Need Boots video. As a result of this video and people voting for them, they won 10 pair of fire boots.
Update November 2013: Here are the newest links to stories written about what I’ve been fortunate to be a part of.
My heart is so filled with love, joy, peace, and humility. How many people get to know while they are alive how much they are loved, and that their life makes a difference? I am so truly blessed.