Shelby firefighters give back to kids’ burn camp

Charitable evening raises $17,100

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published April 29, 2015

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Every year, the Shelby Township Fire Local 1338 puts on a few major events to raise money for various charitable organizations, Fire Chief Jim Swinkowski said.

According to Swinkowski, firefighters raised more than $25,000 for local charities in 2014.

This year, the union’s 25th annual Red Hot Night, which took place on Valentine’s Day, raised a record $17,100 for the Great Lakes Burn Camp, a nonprofit organization that provides camping experiences for burn victims, specifically children ages 6-17.

“It’s a phenomenal organization that reaches kids, not only locally and in the state, but throughout the country,” Swinkowski said. “(I’d like to recognize) not only (the firefighters’) dedication to protect the citizens and residents of Shelby Township, but their continuing even when they’re off duty to do this.”

Firefighter Jeremy Verbeke, who Swinkowski said worked tirelessly on the event for a good portion of the year, presented camp director and co-founder Mike Longenecker with a check at the April 21 Shelby Township Board of Trustees meeting.

Verbeke said the event — which featured dinner, dancing and raffles at the Palazzo Grande Banquet Center in Shelby Township — attracted a record 420 people.

Swinkowski said the Fire Department has been involved with the Great Lakes Burn Camp since 1997, and one of its members, Lt. Frank Pierce, was elected recently as president of the camp’s board of directors.

“What (the Shelby firefighters) do for just the community is a lot, but for them to go above and beyond for different charities like ours is absolutely amazing,” Longenecker said. “You should be very proud of them, and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart, and I know our kids and staff from the camp do, too.”

Longenecker said 93-97 percent of the funds raised go straight to operate the camp and supply the kids with clothing, transportation, sleeping bags and more. Last summer, the program celebrated 20 years.

“Because of all of their medical expenses, every aspect of camp is free for them,” he said. “Lots of kids get together with other kids going through the same thing. The camp is great for social well-being and self-esteem.”

The camp had 45 kids during its first year, Longenecker said. At its peak, he said, attendance reached 102 campers. After campers turn 18, he said many come back to work as staff.

“(The donation) is very well-received and much appreciated,” he said.

For more information about the Great Lakes Burn Camp, visit www.greatlakesburncamp.com.

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