NEW BETHLEHEM – When Jim Lamont of Rimersburg recently saw a television news report about a young boy in Texas who is suffering from kidney disease, and then learned that the boy had dreams of being a firefighter, the story really hit home.
Lamont, a longtime firefighter who has underwent two kidney transplants in the past two decades, said he wanted to reach out to the Texas youngster and do something to lift his spirits.
“I know where this little boy is coming from because I’ve had kidney problems myself, and I’m a kidney transplant survivor,” Lamont said on Friday from the New Bethlehem Fire Hall, where he gathered with New Bethlehem Fire Chief Barry Fox and company president/captain Wayne Livingston.
The firefighters got together to announce the collection of local fire company T-shirts and other items that they plan to send to 8-year-old Karter Whittenberg of Eustace, Texas.
The youngster has been receiving shirts and messages of support from fire companies all over the country since the report of his illness made national news. Lamont said he saw the report a couple of weeks ago on WTAE and starting looking into the boy’s situation.
“My hopes are it gets out to enough departments and we can make this a big thing for this boy,” Lamont said.
The local firefighters have reached out to some of the local fire companies, asking them to donate shirts and other items. But Lamont said he wants to do more.
The goal now, he said, is to gather shirts, patches or other items from companies across Clarion, Armstrong, Butler and Jefferson counties, and beyond.
Lamont said Karter’s mother and aunt started a Facebook page, asking fire companies to send in shirts that are autographed by the local firefighters. They plan to make a quilt from the items that they receive.
Lamont said that when he started having kidney problems years ago, the local fire companies stepped up to help him, holding dinners, golf outings and other benefits to help he and his family with medical expenses. He underwent a kidney and pancreas transplant in 2004, and a second kidney transplant in 2011.
“A lot of firemen stepped up,” he said of the help he received. Now, he wants to pass that support along to young Karter.
“He’s eight years old — it’s a scary thing at any age,” Lamont said. “I’m hoping and praying he gets his life’s dream to become a fireman, and can look back on all the departments that cared for him.”
Fire companies can send items to the New Bethlehem Fire Dept., P.O. Box 39, New Bethlehem, PA 16242, or by calling Lamont at (814) 473-6289 or Fox at (814) 275-3000.
Lamont said that with 16 fire departments just in Clarion County, more than 30 in Armstrong, more than 40 in Butler and more than 20 in Jefferson, he’s hoping for a good response.
“I’d like to have a couple hundred shirts to send,” he said.