Posts Tagged Project Fire Buddies

Firefighters help children battling severe illnesses

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Michael Schofield, an offensive lineman for the NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers, and his wife, Kendall Coyne Schofield, a professional hockey player and 2018 Olympic gold medalist, are giving their support to Project Fire Buddies. Both are Southland natives.

Project Fire Buddies was started by Oak Forest Firefighter/Paramedic Kurt DeGroot after an emergency call in December 2016, when he transported a young child with a high fever who was battling cancer. He wanted to do more for local children going through that battle than just being there during an emergency, so he reached out to fellow firefighters and came up with Project Fire Buddies.

Through the program firefighters try to bring cheer to children battling severe illness simply by hanging out with them, playing board games, playing catch, or other activities. During the holidays, they organize a gift drive for the children and try to get others to sponsor families.

This year, Project Fire Buddies is looking to assist at least eight children and their families with the Christmas drive. Earlier this year, a Project Fire Buddies drive collected 373 backpacks filled with school supplies for child students in Oak Forest.

DeGroot said one of his biggest challenges is finding families who could use help and just promoting what Project Fire Buddies does.

Besides sponsoring three families with Christmas gifts, the athletes are also posting about Project Fire Buddies on social media. One of their posts reached 16,000 people in four days earlier this month.

DeGroot connected with the Schofields through Sue Huiner, who has worked in firefighting administration the past 28 years in the area and is involved with the Schofield Family Foundation, which aims to provide funding and support to military families, emergency personnel, youth sports organizations, and families in need.

And Michael Schofield’s father, also named Michael Schofield, is the Orland Park fire chief who said that Project Fire Buddies fits in with the mission of the Schofield Family Foundation.

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Oak Forest Fire Department news

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Firefighters with the Oak Forest Fire Department started a new program aimed at bringing smiles to the community they serve. The Project Fire Buddies was launched three years ago, after the department realized more needed to be done for the children they meet on emergency calls that are battling challenging illnesses. Firefighters, paramedics, lieutenants, and chiefs all donate their time to give kids an uplifting experience.

“I had an idea of these little guys, like let’s bring a fire truck over and hang out. If they’re healthy enough, we’ll play catch if not we’ll play a board game. We’ll do whatever it takes,” said Oak Forest Fire Department Firefighter/Paramedic Kurt Degroot.

Fire Buddy Pablo Flores was diagnosed with a form of bone cancer that forced him to have his leg amputated. He thought his soccer days were over but Fire Buddies gave him a chance live his dreams taking him to a playoff game for the Chicago Fire.

“Every time we go out for Fire Buddies whether it is at somebody’s house or it is here, it’s nothing but smiles and open hearts and open minds. It’s been one of the best experiences in terms of giving back that we can do,” said Oak Forest Fire Lieutenant Gary Kasper.

Fire buddies is also starting a “Fill the Pack” Program. They are working to collect school supplies for over 200 kids this summer.

For more information on that and if you know a child that needs a fire buddy visit the Project Fire Buddies Facebook page.

Project Fire Buddies in Oak Forest Illinois

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