Each year, our employees participate in many regional and national giving campaigns such as the United Way, American Heart Association and Red Cross. These are worthy causes deserving of our time, attention and generosity. Consistently, our workforce shows its compassion for those in need through our efforts. Today, I write you about one of our own, Medic/Firefighter George Gomez, who is now in need.
Medic/Firefighter George Gomez has selflessly served the city for almost 14 years. His son, Jonathan (19 years old), had always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father – to be a servant. While preparing to do just that, Jonathan, last fall, met a serious roadblock to realizing his dream. He was diagnosed with a rapidly-growing form of brain cancer called glioblastoma. Life changed for the Gomez family. George’s wife, Melinda, made the decision to stop working several months ago to take care of Johnny. This left the family with only one source of income to care for their family and the mounting medical bills.
This past weekend, the physicians told George and Mel that cancer had advanced beyond what further treatments could cure. Johnny was losing his fight. They brought Johnny home Monday to fight until the end with his family by his side. In the fire service, word spreads much like wildfires…fast. Although George and Mel had seen an enormous amount of support since Johnny was diagnosed, they weren’t prepared for what they would see Monday afternoon. Several Fire Division members reached out to Fire Chief David Layman Monday morning and the chief responded. Monday afternoon, he, along with the Fire Division’s Honor Guard, on-duty and off-duty firefighters from Hampton and surrounding jurisdictions, and a host of friends and family descended upon the Gomez’s home. Chief Layman had decided that he would help Johnny and his family realize his dream in the best way he could. A touching ceremony was conducted to make Johnny an honorary firefighter, complete with helmet, turnout coat, badge, certificate, and oath. Despite being medicated to help him rest comfortably, Johnny awoke enough to acknowledge the oath before falling back asleep. Yesterday, Johnny lost his fight and his family lost a son and his sisters, Jacquelyn, 22, and Jasmyn, 17, a brother.
This story is not unique to those in the fire service. Families across the nation, to include those from our City and in other parts of our organization, have endured similar fights against disease. Many of us have donated to our fellow employees when they have had similar struggles and losses. However, I have never before used my opportunity as City Manager to directly message to the entire workforce about those individual losses or needs. Just because I have never done it before, does not mean I should not do it now. Having never been asked to do so before, I candidly never considered it; but, when the Fire Division made me aware of their desire to help Medic Firefighter Gomez and asked if I would send a message to the entire workforce, I agreed that his story should be shared. I hope we never have another one of our own who faces this type of loss. No parent should have to lose a child, and I hope I never have to write you again sharing such sad news. But, I believe our compassion for those need as demonstrated in our campaign giving outlined above should extend to our peers with whom we spend so much time. Having now been asked, I am committed to sharing when and how we can collectively come together to help our fellow employees when they face such unimaginable struggles.
Even if you cannot afford to participate in the ways outlined by the Fire Division below, please keep Medic Firefighter Gomez and his family in your thoughts. It will mean so much to them.
Here is what the Fire Division is doing and requesting at this time:
The Hampton Division of Fire and Rescue is proud of the services its members provide the city and our customers. The Division’s members look forward, each day, to making a difference in someone’s life, no matter how small. It’s the oath we’ve taken and the mission we support. However, sometimes, we find that help is needed from within – for one of our own.
Over the years, a few of our members or their family members have been in real need of assistance for medical issues creating great financial hardship. Our firefighters, and those across the region, respond the only way they know how – by giving back. This is done through moral support, friendship, and through a host of fundraising events and measures often initiated by the peers and comrades of those in need. One of your Fire Division’s members needs your help.This is our family and just as we have vowed to do for others, we do for our own. In fact, despite the fact that the Gomez family was dealing with a fight of their own, they continued to support others that were, too, helping a loved one fight their battle.
Each year, the Fire Division, along with the Hampton Professional Firefighters Association, creates a breast cancer awareness shirt to be worn on duty for the month of October and the proceeds are given to an individual with breast cancer. This year, we were able to donate $1,800 to an individual currently fighting the disease. However, our efforts now are focused on helping one of our own.
The Fire Division has reopened the sale of our breast cancer awareness shirt sale for one of our own. All proceeds from the sale of the shirts will be given to M/FF Gomez and his family to assist in offsetting the enormous financial burden they continue to endure and the pending funeral expenses. Please assist our firefighter family in giving back to one of their own. You can join your firefighters throughout the year, and every October, by wearing this shirt to honor those who have lost their fight and in support of those who continue to fight. There are two ways you can help.
A “GoFundMe” site has also been set up for those who wish to donate directly to the Gomez family. Link: https://www.gofundme.com/nq68msd8 (In Memory of Jonathan Gomez)
If you would like to assist by purchasing a shirt, please mail your payment (payable to “Local 2450”) to:
HDFR Cancer Shirts
c/o Jaime Rastatter
19263 Oliver Drive
Smithfield, Virginia 23430
Orders will be taken at the email address below until October 19, 2015 at 18:00. Please send your payment immediately as we would like to give the proceeds to George as soon as possible.
Adult Short Sleeve
Small to XL $12 2XL $13 3XL $14
Adult Long Sleeve
Small to XL $16 2XL $17 3XL $18
Small to XL $27 2XL $28 3XL $29
Toddlers (Prices are the same as Adult Small to XL in all items)
Youth (Prices are the same as Adult Small to XL in all items)
X Small to X large.
Please send your orders to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Include sizes and what item (Short, Long Hoodie) as well as your contact information.