Nonprofit gives free vacations to firefighters, families after LODDs

Hero Fund America founder said he wanted to recognize those who ran into smoke and bombs after Boston Marathon bombings


By K.C. Myers
The Cape Cod Times

PROVINCETOWN, Mass. — Boston firefighters, mostly from Engine Company 33 and Ladder Company 15, which lost two brothers in a Back Bay fire in March, are being honored with ceremonies and free vacations in Provincetown this week and next.

Founded by part-time Provincetown resident Garth Roberts, the nonprofit Hero Fund America is hosting about 40 firefighters and their families. Among this year's guests will be Joan Walsh, mother of the late Lt. Edward Walsh, Roberts said.

Walsh and Firefighter Michael Kennedy were trapped in the basement when a nine-alarm blaze ripped through a Beacon Street brownstone March 26.

This week, about 20 colleagues from their Boylston Street firehouse enjoyed free rooms offered by private homeowners, hotels and motels, and discounts donated by restaurants, spas and other local businesses, Roberts said. They were honored at a ceremony Tuesday that included Provincetown firefighters and a banner made by Provincetown children at the firehouse on Johnson Street and in the Harbor Lounge on Commercial Street.

Another group of 20 will be treated to a similar ceremony at the Harbor Lounge at 4 p.m. this Tuesday. The public is invited.

Roberts began Hero Fund America in 2013 after the Boston Marathon bombings.

A marathon runner himself, although he never ran the Boston event, Roberts said he noticed that many funds had been set up to help the victims of the bombings, but he wanted to recognize the emergency workers who "ran into the smoke" after the bombs went off at the finish line.

Watching them work during the fear and chaos of the explosions "highlighted to me what first responders do in our community," he said. "Their daily life experiences, it's profound. And how it impacts their loved ones ... It's a huge sacrifice."

Walsh, 43, was the father of three young children, Dillon, 8; Morgan, 5; and Griffin, 2. Kennedy, 33, served with the U.S. Marines in Iraq before becoming a firefighter and was active in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

"The generosity and the compassion from Provincetown has been overwhelming," said Boston Fire Commissioner Joe Finn, who attended the ceremony this week.

"I cannot say enough about them," he said of Roberts and the business owners who donated rooms and goods. "They were looking to do something special and they certainly did."

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(c)2014 the Cape Cod Times (Hyannis, Mass.)

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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