Retired firefighter with stage 4 cancer is riding to Alaska for fundraising initiative

The ride is raising money for the Fire Fighter Cancer Foundation and a scholarship endowment for the Crafton Hills College Fire Academy

Jennifer Iyer
Redlands Daily Facts, Calif.

REDLANDS, Calif. — Retired San Manuel fire captain Mike Orland isn’t letting stage 4 kidney cancer make the rules.

While he took a medical retirement last year, the 52-year-old Yucaipa resident has found another way to save lives: a 4,000-mile motorcycle ride to Alaska with his sons.

He is making the run with sons Jared, 19, and Jacob, 21.
He is making the run with sons Jared, 19, and Jacob, 21. (Photo/ AlaskaADV2019)

While he never expected recovery after his last surgery to take so long, there’s no question if the ride will happen.

“The run’s going July 10th,” Orland said. “If they have to drag me in a hospital bed behind one of the motorcycles, I mean, I’m going.”

The cancer is spreading. It’s in his spine, skull, lungs, collarbone.

“I’m not going to let cancer figure out how I’m gonna die, I’m going to figure out how to live with cancer,” Orland said. “Inevitably I may die from cancer, but during that time I’m going to live with it, I’m going to do whatever and however much I can in the time that I have.”

He is making the run with sons Jared, 19, and Jacob, 21.

“We’re going to end the tour on the Kenai River with a fly rod in our hands,” Orland said.

The ride is raising money for the Fire Fighter Cancer Foundation and a scholarship endowment for the Crafton Hills College Fire Academy. As of Wednesday morning, June 19, Orland had raised $5,643. His goal is $100,000.

“I am in awe of him,” said foundation President Cindy Ell, “just surviving this … let alone an undertaking of this magnitude.”

The foundation’s share of the proceeds will help others in Orland’s position, training advocates to provide vetted information tailored to fire service personnel on everything from nutrition to hydration and exercise.

Having expert information is key, said Ell, who founded the foundation. “Dr. Google,” she said, will almost always say you have cancer and its fatal.

Treatments are getting better, she said, and “no longer is a stage 4 diagnosis a death sentence.”

The nonprofit also assesses fire industry practices, and researches how to identify and reduce exposure to materials that cause cancer.

“Here is someone who was dealt a very bad hand,” Ell said, but Orland is sharing his very personal story to help save lives. “He’s always been an educator at heart.”

Orland ran the fire explorer program when he was with the San Manuel Fire Department.


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“These are the up and coming people that may be driving the direction of the fire service of the future, and I saw this (opportunity) to mentor these kids,” Orland said.

Thinking of them, he’s starting a legacy scholarship endowment at the fire academy for civic-minded cadets.

“If they’re doing something in their local community, they volunteer, they have some regard for not just themselves, those are the people that I want to give a jump start to in the fire service,” he said.

Mike Alder, chief of Crafton Hills Fire Academy, said financial help for cadets is sorely needed.

In the last few decades the academy has become a lot more expensive for students due to rising certification costs and state restrictions on used equipment. He said it now costs students from $3,000 to $5,000 for the 16-week course for tuition, uniforms, equipment, certification and more.

But the scholarship will give cadets something more important than money, Alder said.

“When they see a guy like Mike Orland giving back, and he’s in the midst of stage 4 kidney cancer, that’s mind blowing to most people,” Alder said. “This is what we’re talking about. You want to get into the fire service? You want to be a leader in the fire service? You want to give back to your community? This is the type of person you have to be. It’s never about you, it’s about being selfless and continuing to give back.”

Orland is a walking example of what the fire service is meant to be, Alder added. “If we can get our cadets to emulate a guy like Mike Orland, then we will have succeeded and, more importantly, the community will benefit.”


How to help


Text: “AlaskaADV2019” to 77453

Mail a check:I Fund a Hero, LLCc/o FFCF / AlaskaADV201923623 N. Scottsdale Road, D-3, #105Scottsdale, AZ 85257

Tax deduction: Federal tax ID is #46-5152988


©2019 the Redlands Daily Facts (Redlands, Calif.)


McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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