Recently, the bays of the Marco Island Fire Rescue Department were filled with members of the community enjoying a morning breakfast of pancakes, eggs and sausage. Neighbors, family and friends gathered to chat alongside our fire/rescue personnel. The City Manager, the Fire Chief, several members of the Marco Island Police Department and a few City Councilmen were there, as well.
While several took the opportunity to tour the facility and kick the tires on fire trucks, members of the Fire Rescue Foundation manned their stations cooking, serving, pouring coffee and making sure everyone was happy. Fire Chief Mike Murphy commented on the pancake breakfast, “I was struck by the number of Marco Island families and children that attended, climbing on the trucks, eating pancakes, wearing their fire hats and we even had a few show up in fire gear. When those kids grow up…they will always remember going down with their mom anddad to the Marco Island Fire Station when they were little and having a pancake breakfast…it is about tradition, community and family memories.”
The twice-yearly pancake breakfasts are sponsored by the Fire Rescue Foundation. During the breakfast, a drawing of the Foundation’s Annual Cruise Raffle was held. Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala had the honor of pulling the winning ticket, which belonged to Marie Zandy. Congratulations and Bon Voyage to Marie! All proceeds from this year’s raffle were earmarked for the Foundation’s brand new scholarship program to benefit the educational needs of the families of the fire rescue personnel.
The commitment to community is evident in every aspect of these organizations. Take CPR for example. The Fire Rescue Department and the Marco Island Fire Rescue Foundation sponsor free CPR classes once per month. Elsewhere, this certification course costs $50.00 or more. You can sign up to take the class at the fire station or in some instances, youcan make arrangements to have the course taught at a business or school. In fact, Marco Island Charter Middle School (MICMS) has incorporated the class into its schedule for over 15 years.
Just a few weeks ago, seventh and eighth graders at MICMS received CPR and First Aid training, thanks to the department’s Fireman/Paramedic Chris Bowden, Engineer/Paramedic Pat O’Gorman and Captain/EMT Chris Crossan. Now 290 students are at the ready to administer CPR or First Aid if an emergency situation arises. Cheryl Toth, one of the early teachers at the school, felt it was important to train the students in the life-saving techniques of CPR and First Aid. She contacted the fire department and they agreed to work with the school to bring the program to students. They have taught the course at the school ever since. Two years ago, the Fire Rescue Foundation sponsored Cheryl, and she is now a certified CPR instructor herself, and is a vital component to teaching the course withthe department.
Chris Bowden was a MICMS student who went through the training himself more than a decade ago. His early impressions of fire rescue personnel must have made a positive impact on him, as he is now a Fireman/Paramedic. Furthering his commitment to his career and the community, Chris has taken on the role of Public Education Coordinator for the department. As such, he coordinated the training at MICMS with Cheryl, and with assistance from Pat O’Gorman and Chris Crossan. Five days of rotating class schedules with 290 students is a task in itself. Chris also coordinates the Police-Fire Academy for the department, an annual summer program offered through Mackle Park.
In discussing Chris’s new appointment, Deputy Chief Chris Byrne had this to say, “We have new energetic personnel taking the lead in several of our programs, FF Chris Bowden as the Public Education Coordinator and Lt. Oscar Hernandez as the CPR/First Aid Coordinator, with their energy and motivation we see great opportunities in the future.”