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Shining bright

Lori Roberts | Oct 23, 2017

The family of fallen firefighters accept honors from the Kiwanis Club of Wilmington, Delaware.

For more than 50 of its 99 years, the Kiwanis Club of Wilmington, Delaware, has honored civil servants. Each quarter, the group recognizes a police officer, firefighter and Emergency Medical Services technician. Once a year, the top honorees in each category are again recognized.

“How often do they get told thank you?” says Past President Van D. Olmstead Jr. “Here’s an opportunity for us to express our appreciation and let them know that someone notices.”

The ceremony took a bittersweet turn this year, as the chapter posthumously honored three firefighters who lost their lives searching for survivors in a burning home. The families of Captain Christopher Leach, Lieutenant Jerry Fickes and Lieutenant Ardythe Hope attended the ceremony. Local media picked up the story. The Kiwanis club, Olmstead says, wanted to make sure the community knew these three firefighters died heroes.

Wilmington Fire Department Fire Chief Michael Donohue, a Kiwanian himself, spoke at the ceremony. He is close to a couple of the survivors’ families and can recount some happier memories of working with the firefighters throughout the years.

“It shows how much people care,” Donohue says. “I spoke about all the stuff we did, all of the fun, all of the closeness. It means a lot to the family to hear how much we loved them, how much they are a part of the firefighter family they have both on and off the job.”

Honoring civil servants will remain a high club priority.

“I don’t care what any firefighter says. They may say they don’t want any recognition, but when a firefighter is recognized for something, it means a lot to them,” Donohue says. “People don’t really see what they do all the time or know what they do. There are acts of heroism all the time that go unnoticed.”

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