Each year, several from the department sign up for St. Baldrick's Day, a volunteer-driven charity that raises funds to help find cures for childhood cancers. Already a noble cause in itself, the firefighters' mission carries special meaning, as they drum up the funds in memory of a co-worker's deceased daughter.
"It's a family thing. A brotherhood," said firefighter and 6-year participant Tony Nalepa.
Nalepa serves as captain of the group, which aims to raise $10,000 by the March 15 Bolingbrook 4 Kids St. Baldrick's event at Bolingbrook Golf Club. In 2013, the group reached a grand total of $50,000 raised since its beginning with Baldrick's. But very few years were as poignant as 2010—the year Christian and Michelle Ganz lost Macy.
Meet Macy Ganz, Their InspirationMacy was diagnosed with Stage 4 Clear Cell Sarcoma of the Kidney in 2008, at 11 months old. She underwent chemo and radiation therapy for the cancer that affects only 20 people each year; at the end of treatment, the cancer had spread to her brain. She endured surgery and additional therapy, and spent the summer of 2009 cancer-free.
But it wasn't over for the Ganz family.
Shortly after her remission, doctors discovered Macy now had Acute Myloid Leukemia—a result of the treatment for her previous cancer. She underwent a stem cell transplant in January 2010, after which doctors discovered her original cancer had returned.
She lost her battle Aug. 6, 2010.
Meet Macy's ParentsChristian and Michelle Ganz fought alongside Macy, and jumped into St. Baldrick's when she was just more than 1 year old.
The St. Baldrick's Foundation is a national non-profit organization that raises money for childhood cancer research. Volunteers with the organization typically host special events in which they shave their heads in solidarity with children who lost their hair during cancer treatment.
Macy was inspirational during her struggle—never daunted by the treatment, her spirits never dampened.
"She was our little rock star," said Chris Ganz. "Everybody who met her, she was sure to put a smile on their face. She touched people all over the world.
"She was sent here for a reason."
'One Giant Family'After Macy's death, Christian's coworkers stepped up in many ways—support, food, any other help for the family. The year after her passing, 29 firefighters went under the clippers.
To date this year, three are signed up, but as the date nears, Nalepa expects more will join.
"It just shows what the fire department is all about," Christian Ganz said. "It's one giant family."
The team is even named in memory of Macy—"Team Rock Star." Nalepa, who is in his seventh year shaving his head, will be crowned a "Knight of the Bald Table."
"The fire department is an extension of our family, and they continue to support us in every way possible," said Michelle Ganz.
"It's simply amazing."
You can pledge your support for Lemont Fire's "Team Rock Star" by visiting their St. Baldrick's page.