Penticton firefighters giving back in the line of duty

Penticton Firefighters go to the extra effort outside their regular “business hours” to make those smiles happen.

Penticton firefighter Curtis Gibbons and daughter and two-year-old daughter Lily with Registered Nurse Shawna Sawyer of Penticton Regional Hospital with a tablet and special rocking chair which were part of the donations to the hospital's pediatric ward by the firefighter's union local over Christmas.

Penticton firefighter Curtis Gibbons and daughter and two-year-old daughter Lily with Registered Nurse Shawna Sawyer of Penticton Regional Hospital with a tablet and special rocking chair which were part of the donations to the hospital's pediatric ward by the firefighter's union local over Christmas.

Too often firefighters, like other emergency responders, just see the bad things that happen to people, so being able to put smiles on faces is a welcome change.

Whether it’s as simple as building a firetruck bookshelf for the library or financially assisting a family with a loved one battling cancer, department staff are quick to step up to the plate.

According to secretary Curtis Gibbons of Penticton Firefighters Local 1399, that’s the reason he and other department members go to the extra effort outside their regular “business hours” to make those smiles happen.

“We work hard to support our community as best we can on shift and off shift,” said Gibbons, who has been a firefighter in Penticton for the past six years. “It’s absolutely more than a job, people say it’s (being a firefighter) a calling and we’re all part of it because we want to be able to give back to the community however we can.

“We’re absolutely proud and honoured to help our community by raising that money and then by donating it back. Firefighters are known traditionally for giving back to their communities so we’re keeping that tradition alive.”

He added one of this year’s most heartwarming donations members were able to make was to the Kozari-Bowland family whose teenaged daughter Kaylee was suffering from a rare form of cancer.

Kaylee died in April but Gibbons said once again, just to be able to help in some small way is why the members do what they do.

This week firefighters made their final gift of the year to the paediatric ward of Penticton Regional Hospital from the cash they previously raised.

That included electronic tablets and special furniture the hospital had identified on its wish list.

Other beneficiaries of the department’s generosity include a larger number of local organizations and individuals as well as provincial and national groups such as Muscular Dystrophy Canada and the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters Burn Fund.

The more than $30,000 raised in the past 12 months came from a variety of events, and started off like it does every year with the annual Christmas tree collection.

For a donation firefighters using their personal vehicles pick up trees for disposal or they can be dropped off at the Dawson Avenue hall. Making lunch for the Shriner’s service club and the pancake breakfast at the Peach City Beach Cruise are two other popular events. The long-running Boot Drive and more recently the rooftop camping exercise on top of Safeway are geared specifically to raising money for Muscular Dystrophy Canada. Other causes helped by firefighters include the Penticton Safety Village, Miss Penticton and the Peach City Tees Up for Cancer ladies charity golf tournament.

Gibbons gratefully acknowledged the wide support of local businesses including Scotia Bank, Lakeside Resort and media outlets.

“And yes, we’ll gladly jump on anything where we can make  a bit of money and then give it back just to be able to see those smiles,” he said. “Wherever we can help.”