Winter Garden Fire Rescue helped 10-year-old Adriel Brooks, who has Down syndrome, become a firefighter for a day.
WINTER GARDEN It’s not every day that a 10-year-old gets to become a Winter Garden firefighter for a day, but that’s exactly what Adriel Brooks did last month.
Adriel, a fifth-grader, has Down syndrome and has dealt with various medical complications throughout his young life, including blood transfusions, heart murmurs, tracheomalacia, eye surgeries and thyroid problems.
Because of these medical complications, Adriel and his family got in contact with the Kids Wish Network, a charitable organization similar to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which assists in creating happy memories for children who qualify. The fifth-grader has an infectious smile and a love for firefighters and basketball. With this in mind, KWN set out to give Adriel not just one experience of a lifetime, but two.
“They reached out to me about his wish, that he loves firefighters, would like to visit the fire department and his favorite professional basketball team is Orlando Magic, the other half of his wish,” said Winter Garden Fire Chief Matt McGrew. “I just said, ‘What can we do?’”
Adriel, his parents and two siblings went down to Winter Garden station No. 22 and were treated to a VIP tour of the station. McGrew and other firefighters opened up all the trucks and showed Adriel what was inside before having his firefighter skills tested. He was given a WGFR work T-shirt, a fire coat and a helmet, and then it was time to go to work.
For the first task, Adriel had to act as the officer in command of the tower truck as they “responded to a fire,” turning on all the lights and sirens.
Next, Adriel had to demonstrate his skills with operating a fire hose and hitting three targets. For his last task, he had to save a stuffed puppy from a house fire.
“We took him to the apparatus bay in the fire station, where we have a 32-foot PR trailer where we can do artificial smoke, and a kitchen and living area,” McGrew said. “We put a little smoke in it and we said, ‘You’re going to go in here, crawl low in smoke and rescue a missing puppy.’ We found a brand-new stuffed dog and put that in the floor of the living room. He had to find the puppy and carry it outside.”
After he completed his tasks, Adriel was declared a Winter Garden firefighter, and he, his family and the department crew enjoyed lunch from Firehouse Subs.
“It was a great experience from beginning to end,” said Ayana Clarke-Brooks, Adriel’s mom. “I was amazed to see the fire chief along with his crew present and taking the time to share with my family. They were very detailed, and they allowed Adriel to participate in many drills.”
“I really believe some of the stuff we do is more important than any fire we’ll ever put out.”— Winter Garden Fire Chief Matt McGrew
“Adriel was very happy,” Clarke-Brooks said. “(His favorite part was) being able to put on the uniform and using the water hose.”
“He was all smiles from the time he walked in to the time he left,” McGrew said. “He had a great disposition, and his siblings were very good with him. I really believe some of the stuff we do is more important than any fire we’ll ever put out.”
In addition to his experience as a firefighter, the other half of Adriel’s wish involved attending an Orlando Magic basketball game and meeting some of the players, which he did April 11.
Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].