Posts Tagged Project Fire Buddies

Firefighters help children battling severe illnesses (more)

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Crews from dozens of departments across the suburbs came as part of the Lights and Ladders Brigade with Project Fire Buddies helping out, to decorate the Lockport home of Vinnie Gincauskas, a 15-year-old boy battling a rare cancer. The volunteers put on some holiday music, took to their assigned tasks, and got started.

In March, the Lockport Township High School student was diagnosed with DSRCT, or desmoplastic small round cell tumors. The tumors are a soft tissue sarcoma, which is a type of cancer that forms in the connective tissue of the body. He recently underwent surgery to have nearly 100 tumors removed from his abdominal cavity. A previous surgery removed more tumors and a lymph node from his chest.

Vinny has been taken under the wing of nonprofit Project Fire Buddies, a volunteer-led effort by local fire departments to show support for children battling critical illness. Started in Oak Forest in 2016, the group’s momentum continues to grow, expanding now to 30 different departments including south suburban Oak Lawn, Palos, Orland Park, Tinley Park, Midlothian, Homewood, Lockport, Lemont, New Lenox, Evergreen Park, Frankfort, and Country Club Hills.

Vinnie was touched at the show of support for his family.

“Thank you so much, it means a lot for you to do this for me and my family,” he said he’d tell the volunteers.

The Gincauskas’ house was the second stop in a five-house route for the Brigade on Wednesday. The group this year was able to decorate 13 homes. Fire departments represented included Oak Lawn, Chicago, Posen, Flossmor, Country Club Hills, Lockport, Orland Park, Bolingbrook, Romeoville, Tinley Park, Aurora, Chicago Heights, Cicero, Manhattan, New Lenox, Frankfort, and McHenry Township.

Project Fire Buddies this year fell in step with the Brigade, an effort under the umbrella of the Finley Forever Foundation. The Brigade works as a combined unit of several organizations—The Tom Hopkins Foundation, Christmas without Cancer and Finley Forever—which come together to raise money and bring cheer to families battling cancer during the holiday season by decorating the families’ homes. The effort is entirely funded by donations collected throughout the year. In total, organizers purchased nearly $15,000 in decorations this year—all of which the recipient families will be able to keep.

A few images of their work:; #ProjectFireBuddies;

house decorated by Firefighters with Project Fire Buddies; #ProjectFireBuddies;

house decorated by Firefighters with Project Fire Buddies


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Fire service news

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Project Fire Buddies is an organization of firefighters dedicated to supporting Chicago-area families with critically ill children. The organization, which began at the Oak Forest Fire Department, is a chaptered group of firefighters who visit severely ill children in their communities, bringing joy and comfort during difficult times.

The group has grown to 20 chapters with 32 chapters on the way in 5 different states. Parents who’ve benefited say it makes them proud of their community and their local fire departments.

Project Fire Buddies regularly visits children on holidays and special occasions bringing gifts and dressed up characters but they often just come to spend time playing with the kids. Several celebrities like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jack Black, and Gal Gadot have also sent supportive messages to the families.

For more information on how to help, visit

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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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