Macomb Township firefighter Joe Warne began his 140-mile walk the morning of Sept. 9. This was the third year he walked across Michigan, assisting firefighters battling cancer and their families.

Macomb Township firefighter Joe Warne began his 140-mile walk the morning of Sept. 9. This was the third year he walked across Michigan, assisting firefighters battling cancer and their families.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Macomb Township firefighter, Neighbors United, raise nearly $90k

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published September 22, 2021


MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Each year, more people show up, and there’s more support and more funds raised.

All for firefighters battling cancer, and their families.

The morning of Sept. 9, Macomb Township firefighter Joe Warne began the Walk for the Red 140. He concluded the walk 140 miles later, the afternoon of Sept. 12, east of Grand Rapids. A team of walkers joined Warne at the finish, which included a live bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

Prior to leaving Macomb Township Fire Station No. 2 on 21 Mile Road, a brief ceremony was held that included remarks from fire department officials, recognition of the families of fallen firefighters and a Coast Guard flyover.

The walk is affiliated with Neighbors United, the nonprofit Warne established.

Speaking with C & G Newspapers moments before departing, Warne said what goes through his head the morning of the walk is that he just wants to keep going for those firefighters who have died of cancer.

The ceremony featured five wives who lost their husbands in the last year. The families included those of Craig Sidelinger, of the Ann Arbor Fire Department; Christopher Slezak, of the Sterling Heights Fire Department; Brent Bartley, of the Spring Arbor Fire Department; Jon Bozich, of the Detroit Fire Department; and Jeff Brozich, of the Madison Heights Fire Department.

“These wives are here to carry the legacy of their husbands,” Warne said. “It’s our job to carry that legacy. Every time we hear one of our brothers fall, we continue to say we’ll carry the torch.”

The week following the walk, Warne confirmed that Bob Seger, through Seger’s charity, the Workers Charitable Trust, will donate $10,000.

The Trust was created by Seger and his longtime manager, Punch Andrews.

Warne said the Seger donation came about because he dropped the name of Seger’s song “Like a Rock” during a live TV interview.  

In 2019, Seger and Chevy Trucks matched the $13,680 raised during the walk.

As of Sept. 15, between funds in the bank, money waiting to be deposited that was donated on Facebook, and Seger’s donation, a minimum of $87,000 was raised from the walk. About 15 families will benefit from the funds, 10 of which are loved ones of fallen firefighters.

In 2019, around $32,000 was raised. Last year, over $50,000 was donated.

On Sept. 15, Warne said he feels 100 times better following the walk than in past years.

Sporting a Neighbors United shirt, Warne’s father, Joe Warne Sr., said that each walk, it gets a little better and a little bigger.

“There’s more enthusiasm, more preparation and more training,” he said.

The older Warne said proud is an understatement on how he feels about the work his son does.

“I’m just happy to be a very small part of this,” he said. “The positive message is continuing to support the fallen firefighters and raising cancer awareness for firefighters. He puts his heart and soul into wanting to help those in need.”

Gerald Broughton met the younger Warne at one of his bottle drives and has donated to Neighbors United in the past.

In August, Broughton organized a fundraiser golf outing in Macomb Township to benefit Walk for the Red. Nearly $6,000 was raised and Broughton presented Warne a check moments before the walk began

“He is an unbelievable and caring person,” Broughton said. “He goes all out for the foundation.”

With the walk coinciding with the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Warne attended a memorial ceremony in Lansing that morning.

Speaking about 9/11, Warne said it put occupational cancer on the map for fire departments across the country.

In March, the Walk for the Red 140 is going across state lines, with a walk planned in Texas.