Braeden Gilbert is a fighter. After all, he’s just 7 years old and has to endure things like chemotherapy and IV treatments and spinal taps to fight the acute lymphocytic leukemia he was diagnosed with two years ago.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that Braeden, a first-grader, aspires to be a firefighter.
On Friday, his seventh birthday, Braeden was treated to a surprise when a group of local firefighters, friends and family members helped him live out his firefighter dream.
Braeden spent much of the day hanging out — but also working — with firefighters from Sedgwick County Fire Station No. 32, near 77th North and I-135.
“I love it,” Braeden said.
The event was the culmination of several weeks of work. It began when Clyde Berg, a firefighter at Station No. 32, read about Braeden being named the local Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s 2009 “Little Boy of the Year.”
In his profile, Braeden said he wanted to be a firefighter when he grew up. Berg was moved by the story and wanted to do something.
“I knew I could do this with the guys I work with,” he said.
So firefighters and others worked with Braeden’s mother to make him a firefighter for the day — a surprise for his birthday.
“It’s been killing me not being able to tell him,” said his mother, Brandie.
Braeden didn’t know anything about what was happening until Friday at his school, Griffith Elementary.
During an assembly by the Sedgwick County firefighters on fire safety, it was announced that Friday was Braeden’s birthday. He was told he would spend the day with the fire crew.
He and his mother hopped on a fire engine, where they traveled to the fire station. There, Braeden was presented with several gifts — including firefighting gear from helmet to boots. His fire coat even had his name in reflective lettering on the back. In the afternoon, Braeden got to help fight a fire.
His mother was certain the day would be a boost to Braeden. “He has had a real rough year,” she said of Braeden, whose disease currently is in remission. “Since the beginning of the year, he’s fought one thing after another. So yeah, this will help him a lot.”