Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Living on as a hero forever: Captain LeTourneau Memorial Scholarship

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said that it is suiting for a “sister in the Philadelphia Fire Department” to receive the Captain Matthew LeTourneau Memorial Scholarship to Delaware County Community College, and I agree. The student, Philadelphia Fire Department EMT Bethany DeLoach, who is in the college’s paramedic program, is the first recipient of the scholarship, created in honor of the fallen firefighter.

Photo by Ginger Rae Dunbar - John Moss presented the Wong Moss Outstanding Alumni Award, which was bestowed on the LeToureau family in honor of the late Philadelphia Fire Captain Matthew LeTourneau, a 1995 graduate of Delaware County Community College. Pictured from left to right are: Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam K. Thiel, President Dr. L. Joy Gates Black, brother Luke LeTourneau, sister Michelle LeTourneau, mother Janice LeTourneau and John Moss. The  LeTourneau family then presented Captain Matthew LeTourneau scholarship to a DCCC student. 

She applied for the scholarship named for the first Philadelphia line-of-duty death during her career. It was a first for me, too.

When she talked about seeing thousands of first-responders paying their respects at LeTourneau’s funeral, I could visually recall it myself, as I was among the firefighters in uniform standing at attention outside the Cathedral where his services were held.

She recalled the rainy day and the slight chill in the air, but it wasn’t cold for January. It was “perfect golfing weather,” as Matt’s golfing buddies and fellow firefighters described it.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Taking a shot at making a difference

I’ve seen the differences that police officers make in someone’s life by such simple acts.

The missions of community policing events like “Coffee with a Cop” and “Basketball Cop Foundation” are to create positive interactions between law enforcement officers and community members. These opportunities can also present themselves during a response.

One night while investigating a drug crime, Coatesville police officers noticed a group of kids playing basketball at a net in disrepair. They wanted to replace the net and the officers contacted the Basketball Cop Foundation which donated a new portable basketball net a week later. 

Photo by Ginger Rae Dunbar - Coatesville police Sgt. Ollis speaks to the crowd about the new basketball net, donated by the Basketball Cop Foundation. 

It seemed symbolic that the basketball net required some assembly and the officers volunteered their time to set it up.

“It was put together by guys who have your back,” Coatesville police Sgt. Rodger Ollis told the crowd that gathered to see the net unveiled on a hot afternoon.

The officers distributed basketballs donated by the foundation, and the kids lined up to practice their free-throws.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Junior camps benefit junior firefighters

Some days, for many reasons, I wish I had joined my fire company when I was young enough to be a junior member. Maybe it’s an ironic thought because many junior members can’t wait until they turn 18. In their minds they believe they would be able to do more. They say that because at that age they can train to become interior firefighters.

It’s common for firefighters to join the fire company following in the footsteps of their father, or maybe a brother, while others like me, literally walk in off the street and apply. Some people grow up around the firehouse and start to learn about the equipment and the tactics from a young age. I have interviewed several firefighters who describe growing up in the fire service by riding along in the command vehicle with their relative, who was the fire chief.

I recently reported on the week-long Junior Public Safety Camp, which was held at the Chester County Emergency Services Training Center. The junior members operate a hose line and they learn about the equipment. These camps are a great resource because the young firefighters can gain more knowledge about how to use water appliances and other equipment on their apparatus. It’s also a chance to learn what other companies carry.

Photo by Ginger Rae Dunbar - Twin Valley firefighter Michaela Brooks, 17, operates the hoseline as instructor Dennis Gallagher oversees at the Junior Public Safety Camp held at the Chester County Emergency Services Training Center. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Springfield honors fallen firefighter Matthew LeTourneau

Prior to the start of the annual Fourth of July parade, Springfield Township officials honored fallen firefighter Matthew LeTourneau, who began his passion for firefighting as a volunteer in the township.

His name is placed on a plaque on the “volunteer memorial” wall nearby the firehouse along with hundreds of volunteers who have been honored for serving in the town. Former Springfield Commissioner Jeff Rudolph presented the honor of “exemplary volunteer” to the LeTourneau family in memory Matthew LeTourneau. His mother, Janice LeTourneau, accepted the certificate in his honor. 

Photo by Mark Sherwood - Sherwood Photography
Former Springfield Commissioner Jeff Rudolph presents a certificate to Janice LeTourneau on behalf of her late son, Matthew LeTourneau, who died in the line of duty in Philadelphia in January. 

LeTourneau, who served as a lieutenant with the Philadelphia Fire Department Engine 45/ Platoon A, became trapped during a structural collapse while battling a rowhome fire in a North Philadelphia on Jan. 6. After the firefighters freed him, he was transported to the hospital where he was pounced dead. He was 42.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Graduation roses

As a journalist, I get to know people that I have never met and will never meet because they have passed away.

While 367 Downingtown West High School students walked to get their high school diploma, two roses were placed on two chairs that would have remained empty otherwise. One rose was for Charlotte Hannagan and one was for Cameron Evans. The school honored them with roses to remember their classmates who were there in spirit. 

Photo by Pete Bannan - Daily Local New - A rose is placed on the seat in memory of late Cameron Evans, who would have graduated with the class of 2016.  A rose was placed on another seat in memory of late Charlotte Hannagan, another Downingtown 2016 classmate. 

I never met either of them, but I felt like I knew them when I interviewed their family members, friends, classmates and teachers. I wanted the reader to get a sense of who they were because everyone told me how these two inspired people. They have a lasting legacy as their family and friends work toward causes in their loving memory.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Be aware of AED locations

It must be tough to teach 1,000 kids at a time how to perform CPR, but it’s great that it’s doable.

June 1 – 7 is national CPR and AED awareness week, which is a reminder that anyone has the ability to help save a life by knowing how to perform CPR and use an AED (Automated External Defibrillator).

Each year 1,000 Downingtown students at the Marsh Creek Sixth Grade Center learn hands-only CPR. The program is hosted by Steve and Christy Silva, founders of Aidan’s Heart Foundation. Their son Aidan, a Downingtown elementary school student, died of sudden cardiac arrest in 2010. After he passed away at the age of 7, his family created the foundation to raise funds for heart screenings and to donate AEDs to local organizations. 

Submitted photo - Marsh Creek Sixth Grade Center students learn hands-only CPR during a program at the Downingtown school hosted by Aidan's Heart Foundation. 

As part of a school-wide project, Marsh Creek students had a contest to take pictures of AEDs and name the location to inform others about it. There is an AED placed outside of the main office in their school. Including the graduating class, more than 3,000 Marsh Creek students have been trained in hands-only CPR to date. 

Photo by Ginger Rae Dunbar - This is the AED located in Marsh Creek Sixth Grade Center, of the Downingtown Area School District. 

“We wanted to make sure no other parents went through what we did, losing a child,” Silva said to the students at a recent school assembly. “You as a group are changing lives and literally saving lives.”

Friday, May 25, 2018

Saving yourself time in the newsroom and on fire ground

One of the common factors in journalism and firefighting is learning how to do things to save oneself time.

One of my late editors taught us how to create a skeleton of our Election Day stories to save us time when the results are announced hours after the polls close. He called it a bulldog, a term used in one of his prior newsrooms that stuck. I had my bulldog ready for my supervisors’ race with only needing to add the name of the winner, who they defeated and how many votes each candidate received.

Firefighters have different ways of storing their gear in their lockers to allow them to quickly get dressed and pack up on the apparatus if needed. My company recently took a training class and we were reminded to find ways to adjust our helmets to put on our face pieces in a way that could save us 30 seconds, such time that is important and will count on the fire ground. 

Photo by Ginger Rae Dunbar - Firefighters assist a student putting on protective gear during a fire prevention event.