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August 4, 2014

Kids with cancer get VIP treatment at Birmingham Fire Station

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

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Kids with cancer get VIP treatment at Birmingham Fire Station
Kids get up close and personal with a Birmingham firefighter in full gear at the Birmingham Fire Station Aug. 1. The children visited the station with the Bottomless Toy Chest, which serves children with cancer.
Four-year-old Luke Brzustewicz, from Rochester Hills, tries on a fire helmet during the visit, as 7-year-old Jack Bubnikovich looks on.
 

BIRMINGHAM — Sporting plastic red fire helmets and light blue T-shirts, a group of young children climbed out of a limo bus Aug. 1 on their way to an exclusive private tour of the Birmingham Fire Station on Adams Road.

This wasn’t the first, and probably not the last, time the firefighters at the station showed some young visitors around. But today, everyone agreed, was very special. The kids posing with the fire trucks and touching the hefty uniforms were all cancer patients.

The event was part of an annual celebration that Birmingham-based Bottomless Toy Chest hosts for the kids and their families. The nonprofit spends the year delivering art projects, crafts, toys and more to hospitalized pediatric cancer patients. This year, the kids were treated to a screening of the movie “Planes: Fire & Rescue” at Royal Oak’s Emagine theater. Afterward, keeping with the day’s theme, the kids were whisked off to the fire station in their own private limousine bus, donated by All-Star Limo. 

“We do this every summer. We’ve done movie outings, we’ve done Tigers outings, we’ve done Pistons outings,” said Mickey Guisewite, founder and executive director of Bottomless Toy Chest. “I think we really love these movie outings because some of the patients need to be sitting quietly, or the heat might get to them. These kids are going through a lot, and we need to be sure the weather is nice for them.”

The day of the tour was sunny and warm — but not too warm — and the kids shyly piled into the fire station to greet the firefighters. They learned the ins and outs of the station, from what all those tools do on the fire trucks to how much gear the firefighters wear as they head into a blaze.

Hosting the kids might’ve taken time out of their day, but the firefighters didn’t seem to mind.

“Most of the guys here would probably say they got into this business to help people, and this is one way we help people,” said Birmingham Fire Inspector David Greenwood. “We always think about, one day, if they remember any of the tips they learned here, we had a part in keeping them safe.”

It was easy to see that the experience is something that would last with the youngsters for some time. Four-year-old Scarlett Goble, of Troy, came to the event with her mother, Rachel. She shyly clung to her mother, but her smile said it all as she looked about at the excitement around her.

“You get to pick out a toy from the treasure chest,” Scarlett explained about Bottomless Toy Chest. Then she spoke about the movie she had just seen, with talking planes and trucks. She was sure to tell the Eagle that they were only cartoons, and real vehicles don’t talk.

“This is our first time coming to one of these events. But we see them at the hospital. She gets a toy pretty much every time she goes in from Bottomless Toy Chest. I think that’s probably the only way I can get her there,” said mom Rachel, who added that Scarlett has been undergoing treatment for leukemia since Oct. 28 of last year. She’s doing well, and in April, she’ll begin maintenance treatment.

The organization was founded six years ago following Guisewite’s own experience as the mother of a child stricken with cancer. She watcher her then 12-year-old son undergo treatment for mature b-cell leukemia at Children’s Hospital in Detroit, and she found that the process seemed to go a little smoother when he had something to keep him busy and redirect his attention to something more positive than medicine, doctors and needles.

Now, her son is healthy and headed to his second year of college. So she and her team work to make life a little easier for other kids going through their own cancer struggle.

“We do this to make the ordeal these brave children face every day just a little easier, and events like this give them the will and strength to fight back,” said Guisewite.

For more information on Bottomless Toy Chest, visit www.bottomlesstoychest.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.