WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — “I look at them as being the real heroes. They’re the ones going through treatments and getting better,” Assistant Fire Chief Edward Snarski of the Wilkes-Barre Fire Department said.
First responders came together Wednesday to learn more about the “Badges and Boots” campaign. It’s a campaign, started by the non-profit Palermo Heart to Heart, that gets first responders to participate in the “Carry a Bead Program”.
Those who participate receive beads to wear on their on-duty uniform. Afterward, one of those beads will be sent back to the non-profit Beads of Courage. The beads will then go to a child or teenager who is dealing with a serious illness. The beads, along with a note, are a way to offer encouragement to the children and mark the milestones on their treatment journey.
“So every time they get a needle, every time they get their hair cut off, bone marrow transplant, tit’s recorded and they get a glass bead,” David Palermo, the President of Palermo Heart to Heart, said.
Tom Heffers, a firefighter and EMT, wears four beads and will be receiving his fifth this year. He wears the second bead he received for Dana, a child in California who suffered from leukemia. He has become friends with Dana and her family over the years.
“It was just pretty neat to be able to receive some notification from the family again how she does. We trade messages. I’ve sent a Christmas gift the past years. It’s neat. It’s nice connections,” Heffers said.
A child receives an average of 500 to 600 beads within their first year.
“They’ve actually been shown to have a therapeutic value. Children that never wanted a needle before, they say ‘ I’ll take my needle but I want my bead first’,” Palermo said.
Assistant Fire Chief Edward Snarski says he is proud to wear the beads for the children.
“When they go through these procedures and they receive a bead, they’re not alone. There are people out there thinking of them, and that they’re trying to help them get through the process of getting better,” Snarski said.