OAK FOREST, Illinois – Project Fire Buddies – is a first aid organization that supports families in the Chicago area with seriously ill children.

“When you see these kids go through this treatment and fight for their whole lives, I mean they’re real heroes,” said Kurt DeGrut, founder and CEO of Project Fire Buddies.

The organization, which began in the Department of Fire in the Oak Forest, is a group of professionals who visit seriously ill children in their communities, bringing joy and comfort in difficult times.

“Project Fire Buddies is a way for firefighters to build relationships and support with children battling cancer and other serious illnesses,” DeGrut said.

The group has grown to 20 executives with 32 executives on the way in 5 different states. Parents who have benefited say it makes them proud of their community and local fire departments.

“The Fire Buddies project was amazing,” says Jill Hedenshaw’s father. Her daughter in 2021 was diagnosed with optic glioma.

“We had a plan to go to a Jojo Siwa concert. We didn’t know that Project Fire Buddies also knew about it,” Hedenshaw said. The organization had a driver who accompanied the family all night.

Project Fire Buddies regularly visits children on holidays and special occasions, bringing gifts and dressed-up characters, but often they come just to play with the children. Several celebrities, such as Dwayne “Rock” Johnson, Jack Black and Gal Gadot, also sent messages of support to the families.

“We are slowly and gradually spreading across the country. We always say that it kind of ignites the fire in us, and we see how this fire is spreading,” DeGrut said.

For more information on how to help, visit projectfirebuddies.org.

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