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 Macomb Township firefighter Joe Warne plans to once again walk 140 miles across Michigan this fall to raise funds for firefighters with cancer.  His trek was originally set for May, but he was sidelined with the coronavirus.

Macomb Township firefighter Joe Warne plans to once again walk 140 miles across Michigan this fall to raise funds for firefighters with cancer. His trek was originally set for May, but he was sidelined with the coronavirus.

File photo by Brandy Baker

Macomb Township firefighter shares COVID-19 story

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published June 22, 2020


MACOMB TOWNSHIP — As a Macomb Township firefighter, Joe Warne typically helps others facing medical issues and difficult circumstances.

This year has proven to be anything but typical.

Warne, 40, of Macomb Township, tested positive for COVID-19 in late March, resulting in him being out of commission for about four weeks.

“You’re kind of relieved hearing the results because you know why it is you’re sick,” Warne said. “At the same time, you’re kind of nervous because you don’t know how serious it is going to be.”

Warne, who also is the founder of Neighbors United, an organization dedicated to helping individuals and families who are down on their luck and need the extra help, said he also had the swine flu 10 years ago.

He said for him, having swine flu was worse.

“With that, I was down for four days,” he said. “With COVID, I was sick longer, but it was a little more tolerable.”

Warne said he felt winded and tired when he tried to do anything with COVID-19. He would typically have a mild fever at night. The back pain he experienced, he said, was the worst pain he’s felt in his life.

“I couldn’t move and it felt like a nonstop muscle spasm,” he said.

Over the course of a month, Warne lost roughly 17 pounds — though much of it has been regained.

While no one in his immediate family — his wife and four children — were tested for the virus, Warne assumes his wife also had it.

Once his symptoms worsened, Warne isolated from his family. Other than being tested at the hospital, he was able to recover at home.

Prior to COVID-19, Warne planned to walk from Macomb Township to the westside of Michigan, much like he did last year, on May 24. Now, he intends to complete the walk in September or October.

This will be the second time Warne plans on trekking 140 miles across Michigan, all to raise money for firefighters with cancer. Last year, he raised over $32,000 from the walk.

When he’s not serving the local community as a firefighter, Warne, with a team of volunteers, operates Neighbors United.

In the spring, Neighbors United led charitable efforts such as bottle drives and an auction.

In May, the group hosted a bottle drive in Macomb Township, resulting in a 10-by-25-foot storage unit being filled to the top with returnables.

Warne estimates over $40,000 worth of can and bottles returns will soon be deposited. That money will go toward firefighters and children with cancer. Revenue will also be shared with A Mission Of Love, a nonprofit that offers emotional support and financial assistance to childhood cancer families and monthly gifts to children battling cancer.  

Warne said Neighbors United connected with A Mission Of Love through the death of a boy named Noah, whose family the organization assisted.

“We had people from all over bring their returns,” he said. “One group brought 10 truckloads.”

Earlier this month, Neighbors United held an auction of donated items. Auctions are aimed at being a way for folks to purchase items at a low cost.

Macomb Township resident Kerry Jantz, a charter member of the Kiwanis Club of Macomb Township and chairman of Friends of Macomb Township, said what Warne is doing for the community is great.

“He’s a wonderful and hard-working, conscientious guy,” Jantz said. “He’s family-oriented. It’s good for Macomb Township that he calls Macomb Township home.”

Jantz added that it helps having a team of volunteers as part of Neighbors United.

Neighbors United experienced more good news in late May, when, for the first time in over a year and a half, its assistance list was cleared.

“For the longest time, we had people waiting for assistance, so we were constantly working to get to the local families we could help immediately,” Warne said.