Believe 271 Foundation Year in Review 2023
"We Got This"
By Brian McQueen, President
Your Board: Vice President Fred Sherman, Secretary/Asst Treasurer Betsy Schwertfeger, Treasurer/Corresponding Secretary Donna Grems, Christy DeKing, Eric DeKing, Dave Jones, Sarah McQueen, Daniel Mabbett, Daniel Schwertfeger, Dean Yauger
It is the hope of our Believe 271 Foundation Inc. Board that you and your family have a wonderful Christmas together and we wish each of you a Happy New Year.
The Year 2023 review has unfortunately brought with it the staggering increase in volunteer firefighters being diagnosed with cancer. Our Foundation, created by volunteers that have stepped in to attack this horrible disease through fiscal, social, and emotional support for the firefighters and their families has made a difference in the lives of so many. This all-volunteer Board has been built upon the dedication of our past and current members giving of themselves for the betterment of others. Unfortunately, we lost some wonderful recipients of our support this year and those losses continue to answer the question: Why do we do what we do?
We shared in our mission this past year as we walked together with our brother and sister firefighters and their families in the Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parades in Utica and Camden. Once again, the float theme, construction and delivery were coordinated by our Vice President Fred Sherman, the Western Fire Department and some of our Board. We believe that participating in these events shows our belief in our community and the support they provide for our volunteer fire service.
The growth of our Foundation would not be as successful if it were not for the outstanding support that we have received from so many. The Matthew and Lisa Wilsey family have been there for this Foundation since walking through the front entrance of the Stanley Theater that one evening supporting our mission and assisting those battling for their lives. They have supported us not only financially, but have given us so much guidance and support in making our not-for-profit Foundation successful. This year Frank and Colleen Mastrovito and their team at Mastrovito Hyundai stepped in and sponsored this year’s Sixth Annual Believe Bowl at Utica University. This year we honored three unselfish and dedicated volunteer firefighters: Firefighter Melissa Eaton, Remsen Fire Department, Lt. Mark Shaffer of the New Hartford Fire Department and Assist Chief Brian Szkotak of the Lake Delta Fire Department for our 6th Annual Bowl Game. Just being there and seeing the interaction of the players, coaches and those being honored is something so many will remember for a lifetime. Thanks to Coach Blaise Faggiano, Athletic Director Dave Fontaine, President Dr.Todd Pfannestiel for supporting this unique college football event for our volunteer firefighters in this area, to Sheriff Rob Maciol and his Color Guard and the singing of the National Anthem by Dave Olney and photos by Dana Olney. A special thanks to Dan Smith and his team at Max’s Print Shop in Marcy, NY who donated the t-shirts for the players at this year’s event. Max also created an online website for those who would like to purchase Believe 271 merchandise. Board members Dan and Betsy Schwerfeger donated a Yetti cooler so that the Foundation could once again hold a raffle in hopes of providing more financial support for our volunteer firefighters battling cancer and life-threatening illness.
Once again this year, through the generous donation from the Wilsey family we once again presented 4-$500.00 scholarships in the name of Gregory Wilsey, Matt’s dad, and founder of NYS Tool in Chadwick’s, NY, thus allowing these students to pursue their dreams at a post-secondary educational facility.
At the end of last year, CNY Stair Climb, under the leadership of Chief Jeff Burkhart presented us a check for $11,000 from the very successful Climb held every September in downtown Utica. Through the participation of firefighters career and volunteer from across this nation made this donation possible. Be a part of this tradition next year! Fred Sherman, along with his team from Western FD sponsored our Annual Bowling Tournament at Vista Lanes in January and that was very successful once again. This annual event in January brings in bowlers from across Central NY. In keeping with our bowling, Board member Dean Yauger and his team from the Boonville FD, and the entire community of Boonville, NY, sponsored a bowling tournament that brought the battle of the North Country departments under one roof. This year’s event was very successful. We look forward to their continued support of these events in 2024.
Our events continued in April with the Deerfield Fire Department’s Fish Fry for Believe. What can I say about the DFD family and their untiring support of this Foundation since its inception? Truly if you have never been to one of their fish fries, make it a point in 2023 to support those who support you. Since our inception in 2014, Deerfield FD has provided us with financial support from this special fish fry that has allowed us to carry on our mission. We then moved to a very successful motorcycle ride, a Ride for Bud, sponsored by the local chapter of the Red Knights and co-sponsored by the Westmoreland Fire Department. Over 180 riders made the trek from Westmoreland FD, through the counties of Oneida, Herkimer, and Otsego on that beautiful first Saturday of June. Seeing SO MANY fire departments along the route, Stars and Stripes draped from ladder trucks throughout, firefighter honor guards standing in front of their stations saluting the riders as they rode by, the escort of the Oneida and Herkimer County Sheriffs and the planned and guided route by Dave and Dana Olney, was just amazing. We stopped prior to our return at Harley-Davidson in New York Mills and received a donation from the management of that store donation, a donation that is truly always appreciated in support of our mission. Hats off to Chief Jeff Grube and his volunteer firefighters who once again spent all day cooking for the riders upon their return and to the planning committee from the Red Knights and Believe 271, thank you!
Following the Ride, we prepared our merchandise for display at the NYSAFC Show in Syracuse in June. Thanks to those who supported us and a special thanks to the NYSAFC Chiefs and Sue Revoir for their hospitality throughout the event.
In July, we were invited to the New Hartford Fire Department Truck Show where we were able to share our merchandise, receive a monetary gift from the NHFD and thank those who stopped by for their support. NHFD has been a long-time supporter since our inception, and we thank them for their support.
Next, we are off to Bridgewater for the annual Bridgewater Believe 271 Walk Run coordinated by board members Christy and Eric DeKing and the team from Bridgewater FD. Thank you to all who participated in making this event very successful. This year we were able to donate the proceeds to a cancer patient in the Bridgewater area to assist her with her battle focusing on our vision that no one will fight alone.
Next event in July 3Oth was the Believe 271/Robert LeBuis Memorial Golf Tournament held at the Twin Ponds Golf and Country Club. This tournament was renamed by our Board last fall in honor of our past Treasurer Emeritus Robert LeBuis. We want to thank the 36 foursomes, the countless volunteers that helped us that day, and our sponsors for making this year’s golf tournament the best yet! In 2024 we once again will host this tournament on the last Sunday of July at Twin Ponds. I encourage those who want to play in this special 11th Anniversary event to get their reservations early as this one will fill up fast.
Following the tournament, we headed North to our friends at the Otter Lake FD for their Annual Steak Bake. Thanks to past board member Jeff Abrial and Chief Scott Eisenhart and his family, we’re able to bring our merchandise trailer to this event and share our mission with those who support us in the Adirondacks.
Then off to Old Forge FD for their Drill School and our 5th annual Walk Run once again coordinated by board members Christy and Eric and the OFFD members and businesses. This year was our last walk run that will be held in Old Forge. Thanks to all of you for making our trip to the Drill School and supporting our Walk Run very successful. A special thanks to Kevin, Melanie and Morgan Kalk who are always there to assist us with our sales and events. A special thanks to our past Board Member Truman Williams, whom I call our “Cancer Insurance Specialist” for always taking my calls when a NYS Volunteer Cancer Benefit question comes up in discussions with our recipients.
When you think that we were done, it was time for this Foundation to plan the Pink Tie Gala at Harts Hill Inn. This year the board continued its innovative approach by forming a committee made up of volunteers beyond our board to assist in the planning of this event. These meetings were held at the Floyd Fire Station, and I can’t thank that team in Floyd for their help during these meetings. This PTG committee went above and beyond to make this event the best!! They worked tirelessly with our Board chasing down donations and sponsors, reorganizing our event items from previous years, decorating, running raffles and yes, how could I not mention Becca Pelletier-Ueltschi Photography for donating her efforts and producing some outstanding, social media ready photos If you ever need a photographer, check her out on Facebook. Thank you, Dave Olney, for your musical talents as our DJ. Thank you to the 330 that attended this event and look for more information on the Pink Tie Gala 2024 being held on October 19, 2024.
I once read a quote that said: None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful. I firmly believe that the success of this Foundation has always been built on YOU, along with our volunteer fire departments, sponsors, Friends of Believe 271, our friends of Believe 31 who have attended many of our events, and those anonymous donations that are just sent to us in honor of someone near and dear to their hearts who have left this earth after terrific battles. Our eleven members who volunteer on this Board are special. Volunteering is an act of heroism on a grand scale. And it matters profoundly. It does more than help people beat the odds; it changes the odds. To our community, we call you Believers, thank you for your generous support since our Foundation began ten years ago. Since our inception we have been able to provide 118 checks to 95 different recipients giving out $399,127.00 in checks to firefighters and ladies auxiliary members in 42 different departments. In 2023 we provided $35,500.00 to 17 recipients with an average check being: $2,058.00, not including the Golf Balls from Heaven during our golf tournament which was turned over to three of our recipients to assist them in their battles.
To our Board and our supporters across this great community, you have allowed those battling for their life against cancer, and various life-threatening illnesses, along with their families, to have hope. “Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.” I am sure that those that read this end-of-year report know somebody they love, know somebody in their family, or themselves, that has battled cancer. It is not easy being diagnosed with cancer. No one wants to think that a cancer diagnosis will change your life forever. It’s not easy being diagnosed with any disease, but we must remember there is hope, and hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.
We are not going to stop chasing our mission of assisting those in need. It is through that love and support that YOU have for each other that has allowed us to continue this mission. We will continue the fight through our elected officials in this state to make sure all volunteer firefighters are screened for cancer upon entering the ranks. Statistics show us that early detection saves lives. We thank you and appreciate each one of you. We must always remember: The sun always comes up. Spring always comes after winter. The river always reaches the ocean. Always. Our Board is making a difference in this community!