Shelby Township Firefighters Local 1338 donated a check from the proceeds of its annual Red Hot Night charity event to Great Lakes Burn Camp during the April 2 Board of Trustees meeting. From left, Jeremy Chesnutt, Julius Gewarges, Jeremy Verbeke, Mike Longenecker and Frank Pierce pose for a photo with the check.

Shelby Township Firefighters Local 1338 donated a check from the proceeds of its annual Red Hot Night charity event to Great Lakes Burn Camp during the April 2 Board of Trustees meeting. From left, Jeremy Chesnutt, Julius Gewarges, Jeremy Verbeke, Mike Longenecker and Frank Pierce pose for a photo with the check.

Photo provided by Frank Pierce


Shelby Township firefighters donate $32,600 to Great Lakes Burn Camp

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published April 15, 2019

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Shelby Township Firefighters Local 1338 recently made a big donation to help young children who have faced a tragic event from a fire.

Local 1338 made a donation of $32,600 to Great Lakes Burn Camp during the Shleby Township Board of Trustees meeting April 2.

Every year for 29 years, Shelby Township Firefighters Local 1338 has had a charity event around Valentine’s Day called Red Hot Night. Through this event, the firefighters raised the funds for the burn camp.

Since 1991, the event has raised over $400,000, all of it going to burn survivor charities, including Detroit Burn Center and Great Lakes Burn Camp. Last year, the firefighters donated $18,000 to the camp.

Great Lakes Burn Camp helps kids ages 6-17 meet and support each other as burn survivors. The camp runs in the winter in Onaway, Michigan, at the UAW Family Education Conference Center, and in the summer in Kalamazoo at Pretty Lake Vacation Camp. There is no charge for the campers to participate.

Frank Pierce, EMS coordinator at the Shelby Township Fire Department, said that he was surprised by the amount that they were able to give to the camp this year.

“Nothing surprises me when Jeremy Verbeke (a lieutenant and medic with the Shelby Township Fire Department) puts his mind to something being accomplished, but this year’s donation has just blown me away,” he said.

“Jeremy has been running the Red Hot Night for many years now, and each year he goes out of his way to make it bigger and better. Jeremy does have some help getting ready from our firefighters and their wives, but I believe the success of the event rests squarely on his shoulders. He has brought in members of the community to bring their expertise and relationships in order to increase the amount of money we are able to donate to the Great Lakes Burn Camp.

“As a firefighter and as a member of the camp, I could not be more proud of this accomplishment,” Pierce said.

Pierce has been involved in the camp since 1997 and said he is currently the board president of the camp. While he is at the camp, his position is that of dean of campers. He works with the kids’ social workers and therapists to assist the campers who may be dealing with some difficulties. They might become homesick or feel frustrated because they are out of their element, and they just need some help to get back to having fun.

“It is a tremendous way for me to give back to the community,” he said.

Pierce said he would like to thank Shelby Township Fire Chief Jim Swinkowski for his support, and also the community and other supporters who made the event possible.

“I would like to thank the community for supporting the Red Hot Night. We would not be able to do this without them. Their support, all of the firefighters and their families, along with our township board, make this event a success. Every Shelby Township board member has contributed to the event in one way or another. We also enjoy the support of (state) Rep. Doug Wozniak at the event every year. This is truly a community effort,” said Pierce.

Mike Longenecker, the camp director at Great Lakes Burn Camp, said Shelby Township has been a big supporter of the camp and raises the most for them.

“Shelby Township is our No. 1 fundraiser by far, and I can’t tell you how much it means to myself and the kids. Not only are they giving to the community, but they are giving farther out. I have kids coming from all over Michigan, and it’s totally free for the kids to come ages 6-17, and it doesn’t happen without all the hard work of these guys,” he said.

The camp is going on its 25th year and has 92 volunteers, many of whom were at one time campers themselves.

“Just the rent of the building alone costs more than the donation we received. Last year, we had 60 kids attend the camp, and if they need something, we give them things like shoes, clothes and more. Each kid gets a backpack with supplies, because many of these kids have faced things like a fire and are burned and come with sometimes nothing. They often lose everything in a fire,” said Longenecker.

The camp has fun activities like crafts, fishing, sledding, and even the Michigan State Police come out with their police dogs, and on the last day there is a dance where the children hold each other’s hands and come together. It is a way for them to feel the comfort of others who have faced what they did.

The Shelby Township Firefighters Local 1338 Red Hot Night will take place Feb. 15 next year, when the event will celebrate 30 years.

For more information on the camp or to make a donation, visit www.greatlakesburncamp.org.