SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The Savannah firefighter community is rallying behind one of their own who is undergoing treatment for stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
Captain Matt Kelly is the second Savannah Fire Rescue firefighter from the department in three months to get a cancer diagnosis. Cancer has killed two Savannah firefighters — Chief Heil and Firefighter Jimmy Perez — in the last six years.
On Wednesday, Kelly was greeted by more than 70 of his fellow firefighters and friends as he walked into his first day of chemotherapy treatment at the Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion at St. Joseph’s/Candler.
“This is truly a brotherhood so we’re there for those who need us,” said Michael Taylor, Captain Kelly’s friend of more than 17 years and the organizer of a fundraiser for his family.
“If anybody can take the negative out of what’s going on and push through, it’s going to be him, said Mike Thompson, a fellow member of the Savannah Professional Firefighters Association (IAFF). “I can’t imagine what he’s going through. None of us can.’
Firefighters are exposed to dangerous toxins every day on the job. Thompson says it is one reason firefighters are more likely to get cancer — though they take every precaution they can to protect themselves.
“We sign up for this job knowing we’re going to be in harm’s way,” said Thompson.
The Emerald Society is hosting a fundraiser for Kelly from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 7, at the Knights of Columbus hall.
A cornhole tournament will start at 2 p.m. and a silent raffle and food will also be offered.
“We just want to do the little things in life to take that pressure off the family so they can try to enjoy the time they have with each other,” said Taylor.
For more information on registration and donations, email Taylor at FireMikeT@gmail.com.