An 11-year-old Tempe boy was given the surprise of a lifetime when he received the chance to experience being a firefighter for a day when he visited with his local firefighters in early November. It’s a profession he has always dreamed of but may never get a chance to enter.
Alexis Maldonado suffers from fanconi anemia, a complex and rare rare type of chronic anemia that leads to bone marrow failure.
After finding out Alexis always wanted to be a firefighter, his nurses at Maricopa Medical Center began searching for an opportunity to grant his wish.
The nurses called the Phoenix Fire Department looking to make his wish come true. Beceause Alexis was a resident of Tempe, the Phoenix Fire Department forwarded the request to the Tempe Fire Department.
John Valenzuela, Assistant Chief for the Emergency Services Division, was the one to receive that call in early October and immediately decided to take action. He said he was “ecstatic” on first hearing of the opportunity and decided to make Alexis Maldonado a firefighter for a day. “We like to take care of our people,” he said.
Valenzuela coordinated everything and said he had no problem putting it together quickly.
“In my position I had the power to do this, so it was no trouble at all,” he said.
Firefighters took Maldonado on a ride in a fire truck, gave him a tour of the training center, and allowed him to squirt fire hoses. He saw a demonstration of a ladder truck’s capabilities and was presented with a child-size set of firefighter clothing.
Michael J. Reichling, Public Information Officer for the Tempe Fire Department, said he too was excited when he first learned of the opportunity.
“This touched my heart – being a father and a grandfather myself, we wanted to do anything we could as a city,” he said.
Reichling said the department put it together right away adding, “it’s just a part of what I do.”
“This isn’t a job for me, it’s a passion,” he added.
Valenzuela said that “everyone loves the children” and that, given Maldonado’s circumstances, he wanted to do anything he could for him.
“He has probably suffered more in one month than we have in our entire life,” Valenzuela said.