I’m Thankful for our Local Fire Departments

I am so very thankful for the Mentor Ohio Fire Department, especially firefighter Jerry Craddock, and the Willoughby Ohio Fire Department, especially firefighters Ricky Stuart and Mark Leisure.

We are so thankful for them because with their help we have started a special needs safety program that meets one time per month at both the Mentor and Willoughby locations to help teach kids of all ages with special needs about fire and other safety issues!

We started with firefighter Jerry at the Mentor location. He has been so great with the kids! He is so calm, laid back and patient with them and takes the time to let them ask questions and answers them. He is such an awesome guy.

The Willoughby Department then called me and asked if we could do the program there. We were so excited!

Firefighters Ricky and Mark are full of energy and make the kids feel loved! They are very understanding and patient with the kids and they are all around great people. They even throw special events for us.

In September, they held a special needs family cook-out at the fire station and provided all the food and made smores with the kids.

About the Program

The 30-45min program consists of a story read by a firefighter, (I write the stories) an activity about the lesson, (example: teaches the kids to stop, drop and roll) a short YouTube video, and watching the firefighters put on their gear.

Then, we just hangout, check out the trucks, spray the fire hoses, tour the station, etc.

This program has changed our lives in so many ways.

My son is getting more and more knowledge of fire safety, getting used to seeing the firemen in gear and going out to programs in public to interact with typical adults and kids, Parents and siblings are encouraged to attend the program.

He is making friends that have special needs, interacting with the firemen, participating in the activities and even gaining a longer attention span.

The first couple times he hated going. He would scream and cry and didn’t want anything to do with it. But now, 8 months later he is high fiving the firemen, giving them hugs, and using his talker to ask to go the fire station.

He is learning so much and copying the activities when we get home. He loves the program and has developed relationships with three very special firemen.

Firefighter Jerry even sent a firetruck to our house for a birthday surprise for my son!

I believe this program has changed the lives of these firemen in a number of ways too. They are seeing the importance of holding the program monthly and getting training for their crews on how to help autistic people.

And lastly, opening their eyes to see that there are people out there that learn differently and need more help.

I’m excited to say I have three more local cities starting the program!

Written by, Jenna Newman

I am married and have 3 kids, plus my stepdaughter (Tommy is 7 and nonverbal autistic, Emily is 8 1/2, Kyla is 12 and Lindey is 18). We love going to parks, swimming and the beach! Although everyday is a struggle with autism…love pulls us through. My son has taught us all that love needs no words! Learn more about our mission at Heroes Helping LLC.

(Editor’s Note: This article was provided by Jenna Newman and is part of Cooper’s, ‘I’m Thankful For You’ Campaign.)

You can still nominate the doctors, therapists, teachers, friends and family that make a difference in your special needs world. Click HERE to learn how!

Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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