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GUEST COLUMN: Believe 271 Foundation grateful for ongoing community support

Brian McQueen, Believe 271 Foundation Inc.
Posted 1/11/23

It is the hope of our Believe 271 Foundation Inc. Board that you and your family had a wonderful Christmas together, and we wish each of you a Happy New Year. 

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GUEST COLUMN: Believe 271 Foundation grateful for ongoing community support


It is the hope of our Believe 271 Foundation Inc. Board that you and your family had a wonderful Christmas together, and we wish each of you a Happy New Year. 

The foundation started with the Barneveld and Deerfield Fire Department memberships wanting to assist yet another volunteer firefighter battling to beat the occupational cancer diagnosis in their county.

Brian Palmer, Brian Healey, Brian Destefanis, Kevin Kalk, Truman Williams and Robert Lebuis recognized that cancer in the fire service is an epidemic. 

The Believe 271 Foundation is not only known in Oneida and Herkimer counties but across the state and nation for its support of the passage of the New York State Volunteer Firefighters Cancer Benefit Law and its active role in the development of the National Cancer Registry, built and supported by at that time Congressman Richard Hanna.

The Year 2022 review has brought us out of the darkness from the COVID related issues and allowed us to continue the mission that was developed by our resolute board members back in 2014.

The success of our foundation has been built upon the dedication of our past and current all volunteer board members.

Its growth would not be as successful if not for the outstanding support we have received from so many fire departments, families and businesses.

The Matthew and Lisa Wilsey family have been there for this foundation, its mission and those battling for their lives.

They, along with the NYS Tool Company have been the main supporters of the NYS Tool Believe Bowl at Utica University. This year we honored two unselfish and dedicated volunteer firefighters: Chief John Stark Sr. of the Floyd Fire Department and Firefighter Tom Phelps, posthumously, of the Maynard Fire Department at this year’s fifth annual bowl game.

Just being there and seeing the interaction of the players, coaches and those being honored is something so many will remember for a lifetime.

Thanks to Coach Blaise Faggiano, Athletic Director Dave Fontaine, and President Laura Casamento for supporting this unique college football event for our volunteer firefighters who are battling cancer.

Through the generous donation from the Wilsey family, we once again presented four $500 scholarships in the name of Gregory Wilsey.

Thanks to the diligent and untiring work of foundation Vice President Fred Sherman, he was able to write a grant to the Dorothy Griffin Foundation in Rome, helping us secure a $10,000 grant from them to be specifically used to support our mission.

We thank the Dorothy Griffin Foundation for their donation.

Sherman, along with his team from the Western Fire Department, sponsored our annual Bowling Tournament at Vista Lanes in January and that was very successful once again.

In keeping with our bowling, board member Dean Yauger and his team from the Boonville Fire Department sponsored a bowling tournament that brought the battle of the North Country departments under one roof.

Thanks to Dan Mabbett and the Herkimer County volunteers, another bowling tournament was sponsored and again it was met with huge success.

We look forward to the continued support of these events.

Our events continued in April with the Deerfield Fire Department’s Fish Fry for Believe.

What can I say about the DFD family and their untiring support of this Foundation since its inception?

If you have never been to one of their fish fries, make it a point in 2023 to support those who support you.

We then moved to an extraordinarily successful motorcycle ride, a Ride for Bud, sponsored by the local chapter of the Red Knights and co-sponsored by the Westmoreland Fire Department. More than 220 riders made the trek from the Westmoreland Fire Department, through Oneida, Herkimer, and Otsego counties on that beautiful first Saturday of June.

Seeing so many fire departments along the route, and the huge group of supporters in the village of Mohawk during their Sale Days, stars and stripes draped from ladder trucks throughout, firefighter honor guards standing in front of their stations saluting the riders as they rode by, the escort of the Oneida and Herkimer County Sheriffs and the planned and guided route by Dave and Dana Olney was just amazing and the donation by Harley-Davidson made the day very successful.

Hats off to Chief Jeff Grube and his volunteer firefighters who once again spent all day cooking for the riders upon their return. 

Following the ride, we prepared our merchandise for display at the NYSAFC Show in Syracuse in June. Thanks to those who supported us and a special thanks to the NYSAFC Chiefs and Sue Revoir for their hospitality throughout the event,

In July, we were invited once again to the New Hartford Fire Department Truck Show where we were able to share our merchandise, present a gift to a volunteer firefighter in need and thank those that stopped by for their support.

The New Hartford Fire Department has been a long-time supporter of the foundation since its inception, and we thank them for that. 

Next, we were off to Bridgewater for the annual Bridgewater Believe 271 Walk/Run coordinated by board members Christy and Eric DeKing and the team from the Bridgewater Fire Department.

Thank you to all who participated in making this event very successful.

The Believe 271/Robert LeBuis Memorial Golf Tournament was held on July 31.

This tournament was renamed by the board last fall in honor of our past treasurer emeritus Robert LeBuis. While we miss the guidance, meeting for breakfast or lunch at the Barneveld Bowling Diner and his fiscal intuition he shared with all of us, his name will, and always should, be tied to this golf tournament, a sport he loved to play.

We want to thank the 36 foursomes, the countless volunteers that helped us that day, and our sponsors for making the 2022 tournament the best yet.

In 2023, the golf tournament will move back to Twin Ponds Golf and Country Club in New York Mills on Sunday, July 30. I encourage those who want to play in this special 10th anniversary event to get their reservations early as this one will fill up fast. 

Following the golf tournament, the foundation headed north to join our friends at the Otter Lake Fire Department for its annual Steak Bake.

Thanks to past board member Jeff Abrial and Chief Scott Eisenhart and his family, we were able to bring our merchandise trailer to this event. 

Then it was off to the Old Forge Fire Department for its Drill School and our fourth annual Walk/Run once again coordinated by board members Christy and Eric and the OFFD members and businesses. Thanks to all who made our trip to the Drill School and our walk/run very successful. 

When you thought it was time to relax, think again!

The foundation’s board went back to planning the Pink Tie Gala, an event that had been canceled previously due to the COVID restrictions.

This year the board took an innovative approach by forming a committee made up of volunteers beyond our board to help plan this event.

These meetings were held at the Floyd Fire Station, and I can’t thank that team in Floyd for their help during these meetings.

This Pink Tie Gala committee went above and beyond to make this event the best!

They worked tirelessly with our board, chasing down donations and sponsors, reorganizing our event items from previous years, decorating, running raffles and yes, how could I not mention Becca Pelletier-Ueltschi Photography for donating her efforts and producing some outstanding, social media ready photos.

Thank you to the 330 people that attended this event and look for more information on the Pink Tie Gala 2023 to be held on Oct. 14 this year.

The success of the foundation has always been built on you, our volunteer fire departments, sponsors, Friends of Believe 271, and others who have attended many of our events — as
well as those anonymous donations that are just sent to us from people in honor of someone near and dear to their hearts.

Thanks to your generous support, since our foundation began nine years ago, we have been able to provide 101 checks to 79 different recipients giving out $341,274 to firefighters and ladies auxiliary members in 37 different departments.

In 2022, we provided $32,600 to 10 recipients with an average check being: $3,260.

Thanks to your support, you have helped those battling for their life against cancer and various life-threatening illnesses, and their families, to have hope.

I am sure that those that read this end-of-year report know somebody they love, know somebody in their family or themselves that has battled cancer.

It is not easy being diagnosed with cancer. No one wants to think that a cancer diagnosis will change your life forever.

I did not want to fight the cancer treatments for seven weeks either, until I walked into the doors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and saw four children, wrapped in medical equipment being rolled on a hospital bed to get their treatments.

Cancer has no limitations, so we are not going to stop chasing our mission of assisting those in need.

It is through that love and support that you have for each other that has allowed us to continue this mission. Our foundation has been recognized throughout this state and nation for the work that has been done — and we will never give up so others can follow their dreams.

We thank you and appreciate each and every one of you!

I’d also like to send out a special thanks to the members of our board:

• Vice President Fred Sherman;

• Secretary/Asst. Treasurer Betsy Schwertfeger;

• Treasurer/Corresponding Secretary Donna Grems;

• Christy DeKing;

• Eric DeKing;

• Dave Jones;

• Sarah McQueen;

• Daniel Mabbett;

• Daniel Schwertfeger; and

• Dean Yauger.

Brian McQueen is a cancer survivor and president of the Believe 271 Foundation.


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