When one first responder faces a crisis, an army of other first responders steps in to help, which was evident on Saturday, June 26, for a benefit for Carissa Jackson, an EMS medic battling ovarian cancer.
Organized by Firehouse Angels Outreach, founded by Stephanie Johnson, the benefit, held at the Elks Lodge in Liberty, included a parade of fire trucks and police escorts from Hardin to Liberty, raffles and drawings, and the sale of barbecue plates.
Money raised from the event will help offset medical expenses and lost wages due to medical treatments, Johnson said.
Carissa works for Allegiance EMS, which serves all of the unincorporated areas of Liberty County as well as the cities of Dayton and Cleveland. Her longstanding friendship with many of the first responders in the county began when she worked for Liberty County EMS. She is stationed out of Hardin and Tarkington fire stations.
Hardin firefighter Thomas Harwell put a bounty on his own head to raise money for Jackson.
“For a certain amount raised – $500 – he agreed to shave his head,” said Johnson. “Karissa Wylie, a firefighter for North Liberty County VFD, and her daughter, also raised money by agreeing to shave their heads. We had several other medics who shaved their heads, too.”
The support from fire departments from all across the county was greatly appreciated, said Johnson, adding that every fire department in Liberty County donated items to the auction.
“We are all good friends with Carissa. As first responders, we are her second family,” Johnson said.
Even though this wasn’t an official fire department event, some of vendors used by ESD No. 7 (Hardin Fire and Rescue), where Johnson also serves as commissioner, donated items for the fundraiser.
“The San Jacinto High Rollers donated food items, such as chicken and sausage, and our vendors donated the briskets,” she said.
To ensure that Carissa continues to feel fully supported through her cancer battle – her second cancer battle in her young life, Liberty County fire departments donated patches that were worked into a quilt for her. The quilt was then signed by dozens of firefighters.
“We are all pulling together for her,” Johnson said.