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On December 3, 1999 a fire broke out in an abandoned warehouse in downtown Worcester, Massachusetts. Over 75 firefighters ran into what some have called “the perfect fire” and six of them never came out. One was Jerry Lucey, a cousin of actor Denis Leary, and another Lt. Tommy Spencer, a childhood friend and high school classmate. In response to an effort to find a positive way to deal with this overwhelming loss to his hometown, Denis established The Leary Firefighters Foundation in the spring of 2000.
A lifelong hockey fan, Denis teamed up with Boston Bruins legends and friends, Bobby Orr and Cam Neely to organize the first Celebrity Hat Trick, “Hockey’s Greatest Skate for America’s Bravest,” a two-day event that featured two teams comprised of hockey legends and Hollywood celebrities. Thousands of New England residents turned out to enjoy the game and honor the memory of the “Worcester 6?. The Leary Firefighters Foundation directed funds to The Worcester Firefighters Local 1009 Equipment Fund to support the equipment and training needs of firefighters in Central Massachusetts. These funds have been used to design and build a new burn tower, purchase a SCBA Response Unit (a mobile maintenance unit to service and repair air tanks), and a rescue boat. In October 2007, in partnership with EMC Corporation, we unveiled The Leary Firefighters Foundation and EMC Corporation Training Center.
The success of the annual Celebrity Hat Trick allowed the LFF to expand its reach to the city of Boston. In 2004, our first gift to the Boston Fire Department was a Tactical Command Unit, presented to Boston Fire Commissioner Paul Christian on August 11, at a special ceremony outside City Hall. Built into a retro-fitted Ford Excursion SUV, this emergency management vehicle is capable of increased communications control and improved maneuverability on Boston’s narrow streets. The Foundation directed funds for the Tactical Command Unit and the acquisition of a new Fire Rescue / Diver Support Boat for the Department’s protection of Boston Harbor, which was deployed in the summer of 2006. In 2009, a Rehabilitation Unit was also acquired for the Boston Department.
In the wake of the events of September 11, 2001, The Leary Firefighters Foundation established The Fund for New York’s Bravest to raise money for the families of the 343 firefighters who perished in the line of duty. With enormous support from friends in the entertainment community, we threw a landmark New York City benefit, The BASH for New York’s Bravest, to celebrate our local heroes. Through the success of The BASH and the overwhelming support shown by donors throughout the nation, The Fund for New York’s Bravest raised over $1.9 million before it was closed in 2003. Every dollar collected went directly into the hands of the families without any administrative costs. The BASH for New York’s Bravest continued as a celebrity-studded event through 2007 to honor New York’s firefighters while raising funds to support equipment and training needs.
In 2002, we furthered our focus to assist the FDNY with its critical needs to enhance operations and advance first-responder training. An in-depth working relationship was formed with senior commanders. Utilizing funds raised at The 2003 BASH for New York’s Bravest event, we partnered with the FDNY’s Fire Safety Education Fund to purchase a Mobile Command Center for the FDNY. This emergency management vehicle, deployed on July 19, 2004, is equipped with state-of-the-art audio and video monitoring capabilities and directly answers the call for a heightened level of communications and planning at large-scale events and emergencies. It serves as a visible point of contact for communications between the FDNY, NYPD, FBI and OEM, as well as media and local officials, and as a staging area at major events such as 2004’s Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden. We also donated two Flashover Simulators to the FDNY Fire Academy on Randall’s Island, and in January 2005 these Flashover Simulators were incorporated into the training regiment of both probationary and veteran firefighters to help them understand progression of fire, which will increase their chance of survival in the field.
Our most recent development campaigns were focused on two major long-term projects: building a technologically advanced High-Rise Simulator Training Facility at the FDNY Fire Academy and our pledge to the New Orleans Fire Department to rebuild 11 firehouses in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
On March 19, 2009, Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta joined Denis Leary, FDNY Chief of Department Salvatore Cassano and the FDNY Foundation for the dedication of the FDNY’s new High-Rise Simulator. Equipped with mock residential, office and commercial floor layouts, the state-of-the-art simulator is designed to produce real-life fire and building conditions and help firefighters improve their skills in combating the difficulties of fighting fires in high-rise buildings and performing rescues under extreme conditions. The 4,000-square-foot structure located at the FDNY Fire Academy on Randall’s Island features a variety of real-life functions, including a fire and flashover simulator, a central smoke system, a dry standpipe system, mock elevators and stairways, video hookups on each floor for review and a simulated fire command station. The practical skills learned through exercises in the simulator will build firefighters’ knowledge and serve as an important tool in addressing the safety of both civilians and rescue personnel.
That same year, we announced the completion of the New Orleans Firehouse Restoration Project, which represented a commitment The Leary Firefighters Foundation made in October 2006 with the donation of 14 rescue boats to the New Orleans Fire Department. We witnessed then firsthand the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Highly skilled union carpenters worked side-by-side with NOFD firefighters and civilians to help restore these firehouses , the project became an ongoing volunteer program with the ambitious goal of restoring a total of 11 firehouses, which was achieved in under two years and at a fraction of the cost originally estimated due to the generosity of sponsors, partners, and donors.
Capping last year was the inauguration of TEAM LFF, as The Leary Firefighters Foundation became a participating charity in the 2009 ING New York City Marathon, which is one of the most prestigious marathons in the world. This diverse fundraising team was comprised of both civilians and first-responders, including firefighters from New York, Boston and New Orleans, a U.S. soldier recently returned from Afghanistan, an EMT from Chicago, the wife of a Connecticut firefighter, police officers from Orange County California and Boston, and civilians from New York, California, New Jersey, Virginia and Geneva Switzerland. We’re pleased to report that each member of the team completed the race, and we hope to expand TEAM LFF to other marathons and athletic events in the future.
We’ve produced some dramatic results, but there’s much more to be done. With each dollar raised, we continue the process of helping to save the lives not only of firefighters, but also the people in the communities they serve.
Join Us – The Work Continues.