Albert “Foxie” was a member of the Blauvelt Volunteer Fire Company for 31 years, working his way through the ranks to Chief. On his 11th wedding anniversary, he led his wife Cathy and their two young sons out of a fire to safety. He went back to save another son – but neither made it out – and died in the line of duty on October 26‚ 1996.
When Cathy, the wife of “Foxie” found herself grieving and wondering where to turn, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) was there to support her and her sons. Now Cathy and her sons are able to give back to others who walk a similar path.
It was stories like these that the United States Congress created the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation to lead a nationwide effort in honoring the memories of all U.S. firefighters who died in the line of duty and to provide support to their loved ones.
As part of this mission, each October the Foundation hosts - the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend as a tribute to all firefighters who died in the line of duty during the previous year. The survivors of those being honored meet others who have walked the path a little longer and understand their grief in a way many may not. Through weekend activities, they find reassurance that their loved ones will not be forgotten and they have a place to find comfort and compassion.
CAMPS FOR CHILDREN OF FALLEN FIREFIGHTERS
Beyond the Memorial Weekend, the NFFF helps families with similar experiences and interests find each other through the Survivors Network. Recognizing that children need and deserve special attention, the NFFF introduced the Hal Bruno Camp For Children of Fallen Fighters in partnership with Comfort Zone Camp. This free weekend bereavement camp allows children to share their stories, learn skills to manage their loss and provides time to reflect and remember their parent in a positive, fun and nurturing environment.
“Everyone grieves differently and in their own way, but ultimately, our feelings are universal,” one camper explained. “The Hal Bruno Camp can help you. You don’t have to share your story, but if you do, it is healing in a way that these people at the camp ‘get it’.”
AN EXPANDING MISSION
Over the years, the Foundation realized that the best way to honor the fallen and support their families is to work with all branches of the fire service to reduce line-of-duty deaths and injuries. And so the NFFF’s mission has expanded.
In 2004, the first Firefighter Life Safety Summit was held in Tampa, Florida to address a need to reduce the number of preventable line-of-duty deaths. More than 200 fire service and industry leaders worked together to develop the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives.
Out of those initiatives, the NFFF created the Everyone Goes Home® program, which provides free resources, materials and training opportunities to our nation’s firefighters that underscore the importance of accepting responsibility for one’s health and safety.
In addition, the Foundation has provided funding for research that examines coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes prevention. The NFFF also regularly sponsors meetings and summits to address evolving needs of the fire service community, such as cancer prevention and behavioral health issues.
When a tragedy strikes in the community – day or night – firefighters respond without hesitation to protect and save the lives of others. Duty Runs Deep.
When tragedy strikes in the fire service – and a firefighter dies in the line of duty – it is our mission to respond- to bring comfort and hope in the midst of sorrow and pain.
Help us honor those who have fallen and share your stories using the hashtag #dutyrunsdeep and the Motorola Solutions Foundation will donate $1 to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Chief Ronald J. Siarnicki is the Executive Director of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
Watch the video of this years memorial event
Learn more at motorolasolutions.com/dutyrunsdeep