Helping heroes heal
New Richmond area children will have a chance to meet firefighters, police officers, soldiers and paramedics this weekend during the second annual Collin’s Community Hero Day.
While it is set up to be fun for kids, with community service workers and emergency vehicle displays, a silent auction at the event will raise money for a serious cause.
“Collin’s Community Hero Day is a fundraising event to help support community service workers in New Richmond after they are exposed to traumatic events,” said Rachel Fitzgerald, emergency room nurse at Westfields Hospital.
A little more than 13 months ago, Dan and Rachel Fitzgerald suffered the incredibly traumatic and painful death of their 4-year-old son Collin in a snow plowing accident.
St. Croix County Sheriff John Shilts called it “one of the most tragic events that anyone could ever have to deal with.”
With this event, the Fitzgeralds hope to help community service workers like the ones who responded to their call for help.
“They’re the ones on the front lines,” Rachel said. “They’re the ones who have to see what doesn’t make it into the emergency room. They have to listen to the mothers screaming after they learn that their child has died, and they have to live with that in their head, and they have to be able to put that in a very special place.”
While experiencing their own anguish, the Fitzgeralds also got a sense of the types of situations emergency workers deal with all too often. Though emergency workers are trained to deal with such experiences, sometimes it can be too much.
“It was very traumatic. We saw what that did to some of the paramedics and the police, all the way down the line,” Rachel said. “We wanted to be able to support them and also glorify God by making this tragedy that we went through into good.”
The Fitzgeralds have set up Collin’s Compassion Fund to help. The fund is meant to help traumatized emergency personnel afford copays and other costs associated with necessary evaluation and care.
The fund has a committee with Dan, Rachel and multiple service worker representatives who together determine how much money can be allotted per individual exposed to emotional trauma.
Collin’s passion Like many boys his age, Collin liked to pretend he was a cop, a firefighter, a soldier and even a doctor. But, according to his mother, Collin’s love for these types of professions went beyond typical playing.
“Collin just had an absolute passion for service,” Rachel said. “Every day he was something else, whether it was a police officer, a firefighter, an armed services worker, a doctor uniform. His true passion was firefighters. He and I would play firefighters all day long and have fake drills on how to get out of the house with a fire alarm.”
The event serves as a way to honor Collin by offering support to service workers and celebrating what would have been his sixth birthday on Jan. 29.
The first Collin’s Community Hero Day took place in the Family Fresh Market parking lot last year just over a month after the boy’s death.
This year’s event will take place at the New Richmond Area Ambulance Service station on Saturday, Jan. 25 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.