TEWKSBURY — 10 members of the Tewksbury Fire Department raced on Sunday, Jan. 26 in the Boston Bruins BFit Challenge in support of fellow first responders.
Firefighters Mike Willey, Al Rosemond, Derek Temello, Dan Sawicki, Chris Texeria, Pete Smith, Joel Altavesta, Jim Fitzpatrick, Derek Welch, and Dave Giasullo raised a group total of $2,450 for the New England Firefighter Cancer Fund.
The BFit Challenge is an annual event that takes place inside Boston’s TD Garden. The Boston Bruins website explains, “This one-of-a-kind event invites both first responders and anyone in the community to climb in TD Garden to benefit the families of fallen First Responders.”
Each team needs to raise $1,500 to be eligible to race, or climb, up and down the bleachers inside the arena.
The money that each team raises goes to one of the four host charities. This year, there was the 100 Club of MA, the New England Firefighter Cancer Fund, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association Foundation. In total, the BFit Challenge raised more than $500,000 to all four charities.
Tewksbury’s firefighters jumped on the opportunity to support firefighters currently battling cancer when they first heard about the BFit Challenge at a union meeting. The team decided that the money they raised would go to the New England Firefighter Cancer Fund because they know that cancer could affect any one of them.
Local 1647 Union Vice President Jim Fitzpatrick said, “There’s a lot of news and research coming out on cancer in the firehouse. Now that it’s out there, people are definitely more aware of the prevalence of cancer among firefighters.”
The increasing statistics were only one reason that the TFD wanted to participate in the race.
“It was a good way to not only be active but also to participate in a fun event that raised money for a really good cause,” Fitzpatrick continued.
As part of the union, these firefighters regularly donate their time and their effort at similar community events.
Promoting physical fitness is also a priority for the department supporting the BFit Challenge.
“I think we have a good group of guys that understands that [being fit] is a necessary part of the job — it’s important to not only our safety but the safety of the public as well.”
Fitzpatrick listed a few duties off the top of his head that may be performed in any fire: lifting people off of the ground, carrying people up and down stairs, and ripping down ceilings and walls.
“The hoses by themselves fully charged are heavy,” he added.
He said that almost every aspect of the job requires physical activity.
In addition to running a 15-20-minute race in full gear, which weighs up to 30 lbs., Tewksbury firefighters gave up their days off or had someone cover for them so that they could participate.
“The gear definitely made it a little more challenging, but we all got through it,” Fitzpatrick said. “I was feeling a little sore the next day.”
After the race, there were other games and giveaway activities for anyone who came out to support that day. The Union VP gave major credit to these firefighters who spent their time off to keep up with fitness and to make a difference in the lives of other firefighters.