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Record donations for Firefighter in the Sky

Lt. Brian Hegedus climbed the ladder Dec. 22 and the community came through
FF in sky 2
Westlock firefighter Lt. Brian Hegedus at the top of the 50-foot ladder Dec. 22 as part of the annual Firefighter in the Sky donation campaign. This year the fire department raised $3,981.05 in cash, 4,808.7 pounds of food and 11 bags of warm clothing. Chris Zwick/WN

WESTLOCK - Town of Westlock firefighters came through for the fourth year in a row with a very popular fundraiser which brought in 4,808.7 pounds of food, $3,918.05 and 11 bags and boxes of warm clothing.

Dec. 22 was the last day for the annual Firefighter in the Sky donation drive, when Brian Hegedus committed to staying up on the ladder from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. near the Independent gas station, when they estimated they would reach their goal of 1,000 pounds of food and 1,000 cash for the day. He got off the ladder an hour early.

Every Sunday and Wednesday during the month of December, town firefighters go to local grocery stores, greeting people at the main doors for a couple of hours, saying hi and collecting donations.

To end the campaign, Hegedus climbs the ladder on the last Sunday and stays there until the goal is reached.

After two days a week at each grocery store over the course of the four weeks, firefighters were collecting, and brought in acceptable totals, but on the culminating Sunday, the total came in at 1,252.2 pounds of food, $2,241 cash and five boxes of clothes, just in the one day.

This year, the cash donation will be split between the Westlock and District Food Bank and Westlock and District Family and Community Support Services, which Hegedus said was different from years past, along with the boxes of warm clothing.

That morning, the food was delivered to the food bank, which was lucky enough this year to not have enough space for it on the shelves and to have find room in storage.

“It’s a lot of fun. You get out there with the community, you get to meet people, everybody appreciates us being there to collect. Sometimes, they just don’t know where to donate, they don’t have the time. We’re kind of the middleman,” laughed Hegedus.

Four years ago, when the idea came together, the fire department was looking for ways to help the community.

“A lot of departments do their rooftop campouts on the firehall, but ours can’t support the weight. We were trying to come up with other ideas, Next thing you know, I was up on a ladder,” said Hegedus, who came up with the idea of parking the ladder until the donations come in.

“This year is just above the 2017 total and 2017 was our record year before this for both food and cash.

“I have a strong team behind me, backing me. We all have the same goal, working together to get this all collected and get this dropped off together.”