ORANGE PARK – Fortis College will join Hoods For Heroes to raise money to supply firefighters with protective hoods.
Over the next six weeks, students will each try to raise $125, the cost of one protective hood that blocks carcinogens accumulated while fighting fires. According to a Hoods For Heroes press release, the fundraising program includes a drawing for an award of up to $2,500, with a matching amount from Fortis College.
Cancer is prevalent among firefighters. Carcinogens released from burned synthetic materials stick on their skin and clothing long after a fire is over.
Hoods For Heroes referenced a National Institute of Science and Health report that firefighters have a 2.02 times higher risk for testicular cancer and 1.53 times greater chance for myeloma than the general population. Multiple studies indicate about one in three firefighters will be diagnosed with cancer and more than 60 percent of line-of-duty deaths are due to cancer, according to the International Association of Fire Fighters.
Hoods For Heroes co-founder Bill Hamilton said the organization had distributed more than 900 hoods to firefighters and $250,000 in cash and other services since August of last year. Hamilton said Hoods For Heroes met with about 200 students over a week and was looking for other schools to partner with.
“We’re working on a program with Middleburg High School for something similar to raise money for helping firefighters,” Hamilton said.
Fortis College Campus President Wyman Dickey said medical students were drawn to helping others and the college was honored to assist in Hoods For Heroes’ efforts.
“This is a perfect way for (students) to be able to see the benefit of working with an organization that has a goal that really produces immediate results,” Dickey said.
Hoods For Heroes CEO Jeff Roundtree said his organization is excited that Fortis will bring awareness to firefighters’ plight.
“We hope that firefighters will be excited to see the love and support from a local college,” Rountree said. “There are many students at the post-secondary schools that have friends and loved ones who are firefighters. Now they are aware of the problem and committed to helping.”
Hoods For Heroes will host its 2nd annual SoundOff event on May 4 at the Mooseheaven Grounds featuring a two rapid intervention team courses for first responders and corporate partners, and a 30-second blasting of sirens to commemorate fallen firefighters. The event will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit hoodsforheroes.org.