The life of a firefighter changes from one minute to the next: snap decisions to make, scary situations to face head-on and emotional outcomes to contend with – sometimes all in one day.
Unfortunately, cancer patients and their families also know these ordeals all too well.
But when 2½ year-old Connor spent a day with his heroes at the Raleigh Fire Department training facility, thoughts of hospitals, treatments and other facets of his illness seemed far away.
When Connor’s cancer treatment hindered his ability to enjoy playgrounds and parks because of his low immune system, the family would get in the car and drive around town. Connor always loved trucks, according to his parents, Byron and Joanna. And his face would especially light up when they passed a fire truck. When Make-A-Wish offered to grant Connor a wish, there was no doubt as to what Connor wanted – to spend a day at the fire department.
The Raleigh Fire Department was delighted to make Connor an honorary firefighter for the day, spending time with him and his family, letting him operate the controls on the truck and spray water from the fire hose. They even invited him for a ride in the fire truck during the city’s lively St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Byron and Joanna, who were among many friends, family and community supporters cheering for Connor as the truck proudly rolled through the parade, said the experience was a great way to celebrate the end of what had been a tough year for them all. But seeing an endless smile on Connor’s face that chilly March day was their biggest reward, as was making great memories that they will cherish for many years to come.
“The people we met were amazing, always kind and attentive to Connor, and invited us to stay as long as Connor liked,” said Joanna. “It was clear that Connor felt that he had found his place among the firefighters.”