Project Fire Buddies partners with fire department to bring smiles to critically ill children, and since its onset, there have been 43 Fire Protection Buddy Chapters that have formed through partnerships with fire departments throughout Illinois, including North Palos Fire Prevention District. (Supplied photos)

Project Fire Buddies partners with fire department to bring smiles to critically ill children, and since its onset, there have been 43 Fire Protection Buddy Chapters that have formed through partnerships with fire departments throughout Illinois, including North Palos Fire Prevention District. (Supplied photos)

North Palos Fire District starts Fire Buddies chapter 

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Project Fire Buddies partners with fire department to bring smiles to critically ill children.

By Kelly White 

Project Fire Buddies brings joy to kids struggling with serious illnesses. 

The program launched in 2016 when a group of Oak Forest Firefighters answered a 911 call. A young child who was battling cancer fell ill with a high fever. The department transported the child to the hospital for life-saving treatment, and the experience left firefighters longing to do more to help.  

It was then that Project Fire Buddies was born.  

The non-profit organization continues to partner with fire departments to bring smiles to critically ill children. Since its beginning, 43 Fire Protection Buddy Chapters have formed through partnerships with fire departments throughout Illinois, with even three from different states, and the organization continues to grow daily, according to Kurt DeGroot, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Project Fire Buddies, Inc. 

reporter fire buddies3“It’s a true blessing to have all of these communities supporting the most vulnerable children in their town,” DeGroot said. “After we started Project Fire Buddies and saw the positive impact it had on the families and on our first responder community, we knew it needed to be in every firehouse.” 

“Project Fire Buddies is an organization of firefighters that create relationships and support for families that are battling Pediatric Critical Illnesses,” Derek Newtoff, president of the North Palos Project Fire Buddies Chapter, said. “We are creating bonds with families and bringing gifts and experiences for the most vulnerable kids in our community.”  

In its first year, Project Fire Buddies held a Christmas toy drive, collecting presents from generous community members and purchasing some themselves, then the gifts were delivered directly to children’s homes. 

Since then, Project Fire Buddies has kept expanding, sponsoring multiple children throughout the calendar year. Aside from showing up in bright red fire engines, Project Fire Buddies brings cheer and gifts, fire department volunteers visit with their fire buddies at home, play games, read books, bring gifts for special occasions, and show the kids just how special they are. 

“We bring the child new toys, video games and even medical equipment if there is something special that they need that maybe the insurance company just won’t cover,” DeGroot said. 

Project Fire Buddies has also partnered with celebrities including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jack Black, Brent Sopel, Kendall Coyne, Gal Gadot, Dave Bautista through FaceTime meetings. The organization has also partnered with the Bulls, Bears, Sox and even Taylor Swift to give once in a lifetime experiences. 

“From all of us at North Palos we are just happy that Project Fire Buddies allowed us to join them and all the other chapters out there to continue to grow this great cause and make sure that no child ever fights their battle alone,” Newtoff said. 

North Palos Fire Protection District is hoping to get the word to see if we have any children residing within their area would like a visit from the buddies. 

“Our role is to locate any critically ill kids in our response district, grow a relationship, help bring as many smiles as we can, deliver toys and gifts and most importantly making them a part of the family,” Newtoff said. “What I like most about this project is that we can bring a huge smile to a kid that is going through some horrible times just by pulling up in a big red fire truck and in that moment, they are not thinking about their illness.” 

If you know someone who would like a visit from the buddies or if you would like to make a donation directly to Project Fire Buddies, visit https://www.projectfirebuddies.org or email contact@projectfirebuddies.org

Project Fire Buddies is also on Facebook and Instagram @projectfirebuddies. 

 

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