Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Milwaukee firefighters help Komen Wisconsin fight breast cancer
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Saving lives is part of the job description for Milwaukee firefighters, which, by any definition, makes them heroes. But this week, we're meeting a group of firefighters who go above and beyond the call of duty. On their off days, they help Komen Wisconsin fight breast cancer.
Of course when the alarm sounds, these firefighters spring into action, heading out wherever duty calls, but that is just part of the job.
"It's a tradition in the firehouse, you take care of the people who take care of you," said Lt. Jeff Freitag, chopping mushrooms for a station dinner.
Freitag is cooking that meal for his fellow firefighters, and it's taking care of others that he really sees as his mission.
"It's kind of something that's been part of my family, and helping others is the way I was raised," he said.
For Local 215 President Eric Daun, his mom, Patty, is his inspiration.
"We love doing what we do," Daun said. "The job is our job. But when we can give back, it's so much more than that."
It's that caring and community that has drawn Milwaukee firefighters to the finish line of the Komen Wisconsin More Than Pink Walk for years. Kendrick Ashley is a heavy equipment operator.
"Which is a fancy name for, I drive the rigs," he said with a smile.
He's been involved with Komen for a long time.
"I'm always going to do it, for as long as they'll let me, and I have a great time doing it," Ashley said.
You'll find these firefighters at the walk again this year, handing out pink roses.
"To just see the expressions on people's faces, right? Everybody loves a firefighter," said MFD Chief Aaron Lipski.
This will be Lipski's first year at the finish line.
"It's a very, very emotional intersection right at that finish line and we're honored to be included in that," he said.
Patty Daun is a breast cancer survivor herself.
"I'm a survivor for 15 years. I had my mammogram last week, and I continue to get A+s. And I want to be here for my grandchildren -- Eric has the three children -- for their weddings," she said.
And she's proud to see her son at the finish line.
"I think it's wonderful. I love getting a rose from my son," Daun said with evident pride.
The roses bring smiles, but for more than a decade, these firefighters have also been raising cash. So far, they've raised $30,000 selling pink T-shirts.
"The Milwaukee firefighters, absolutely, they're at the top of the list. They're the superman of real people," said Komen Wisconsin Executive Director Nikki Panico.
The firefighters can also be found auctioning pizza dinners up on stage at the annual More Than Pink Gala, which is held in the spring.
"I was the guy who was actually helping the auctioneer," Freitag said.
It's the money, combined with the awareness they raise, that makes a big difference.
"Every year, you need to get your mammogram. That is how mine was caught at 50 years old," Daun said.
Panico said the MFD's support means a lot.
"Helmets off to these amazing heroes," Panico said. "To have the Milwaukee Fire Department recognize that there are not enough cures, raise money for research, is the only way we're going to stop this disease."
It's a fight that's touched Panico and her family. She's also a breast cancer survivor.
"I've lost my mom and her sister to this disease," she said. "They died within a month of each other. My grandparents lost their only two children within a month of each other, from breast cancer."
For these everyday heroes, helping in the fight against breast cancer is a natural extension of what they do. So, keep an eye out for the pink shirts, and the roses at Komen's More Than Pink Walk this year.
"The passion we have as firefighters, the passion we have for family, the passion we have for relationships," Freitag said.
CBS 58 is a proud sponsor of The Susan G. Komen More Than Pink Walk. It is Sunday, Sept. 26. For more information, click here.
If you'd like to nominate an Everyday Hero, send Natalie a message at [email protected]