A township 11-year-old boy fighting his last battle against cancer got a bright, noisy surprise last night as nearly 100 fire vehicles rolled past his house in a show of love and support.
Volunteer firefighters from Barnegat were already planning to stop by Kyle McGetrick’s home Wednesday night to deliver the makings of a full Christmas dinner courtesy of Ocean of Love, a county nonprofit that offers food to families of children with cancer at the holidays. It’s always a special mission, since Kyle’s dad Gene McGetrick is a longtime firefighter, and Kyle himself has been an honorary member of the Barnegat Fire Company since his diagnosis seven years ago.
But Barnegat Fire Company president Gary Brown said he and the rest of the volunteers received sad news last week. Doctors had exhausted all of Kyle’s options. He was coming home to spend his last days surrounded by his family.
That’s when the company got the idea to turn a holiday gesture of goodwill into an all-hands tribute for one of their own.
Brown said Barnegat firefighters had intended to offer a final goodbye to Kyle when the time came. “But we thought, instead of getting all those trucks and people here after he passes, let’s show him how much we care and how many people he’s impacting while he’s still with us,” he said.
With the blessing of the family, he got busy getting the word out. An email went out to members of the Barnegat and Pinewood Estates companies, as well as firefighers in Stafford and Waretown, asking them to bring a vehicle or two to Barnegat at 7 p.m. Wednesday night for the special assignment.
“We thought maybe 20 trucks would show up,” Brown said.
But then a member forwarded the email along to friends all over the county. Several more people posted the news of the planned convoy on Facebook. By the time the rigs were ready to roll, 92 trucks and other vehicles manned by more than 400 people from 34 Ocean County departments had packed the streets around the downtown firehouse. It had been only 24 hours since the first notice was sent out.
“We had trucks from New Gretna, Lakehurst, Whiting, Seaside Park, Lavallette,” Brown said. “We had trucks double-stacked down Birdsall Street, Water Street and all the way down Bay Avenue.”
With help from the Barnegat Township Police Department, the trucks paraded through town to the McGetrick home on Village Drive in Settlers Landing with lights flashing and sirens blaring. Santa and Mrs. Claus made a special appearance, too.
“I don’t know how they orchestrated it all,” Gene McGetrick said. His son has been spending most of his time in bed, exhausted from his fight against the disease he’s battled for more than half his life. “But he got himself up to go and wave to everybody. They made his night last night.”
The support has meant a lot to the whole family, said Gene. “It’s been very hard,” he said, “but the thing that happened last night with the fire companies, that put a smile on everybody’s face.”
Many who drove by offered Kyle gifts of their fire company’s patches, Brown said. One volunteer gave the boy the coin he’s carried in his wallet throughout the 30 years he’s served as a firefighter.
Best of all was the helmet offered by Barnegat Fire Chief Mike Moore. It became his son’s prized possession instantly, said Gene.
“He won’t let anybody in the house touch it,” he said.