Cancer awareness picnic at Fort Totten

Retired firefighter and Ground Zero first responder Ray Pfeifer passed away on Sunday, May 28 after battling 9/11-related cancer for eight years.
Photo by Naeisha Rose
By Naesha Rose

Fired Up for a Cure is a cancer awareness picnic hosted by the FDNY that is scheduled to take place Friday at Fort Totten.

The event is raising money for the American Cancer Society, FDNY Family Transport Foundation and the FDNY Foundation charities.

The purpose of the fundraiser is to help those battling cancer and provide support to their caregivers.

“Firefighters work in hazardous conditions,” said John Feal, a 9/11 first responder and activist who supports health initiatives for fellow first responders. “Firefighters have a higher risk of getting cancer than the general population. Then add the aftermath and the toxins of 9/11 and it’s that much higher.”

The event couldn’t have come at a more important time.

On Sunday, Feal’s friend, Ground Zero first responder and retired Engine 40/Ladder 35 firefighter Ray Pfeifer, succumbed to his 9/11-related stage 4 cancer after an eight-year battle.

Before he died, he fought for the renewal of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which provided specialized health care and monitoring for first responders, civilians at Ground Zero and volunteers nationwide who helped in the area after the fall of the Twin Towers.

Pfeifer, Feal and the former host of “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart, worked tirelessly to renew the bill, which provides aid to over 70,000 people across the United States, according to Feal.

Pfeifer would often go to Washington, D.C., helping to knock on the doors of different politicians while in his wheelchair. The bill was renewed on Dec. 18, 2015.

“I’ve been driving the bus, but it was Ray Pfiefer who was telling me the directions,” Feal said. “We [first responders] went down there as strangers and we left as a family because of Ray. Ray didn’t invent patriotism — he just perfected it. I miss my friend dearly.”

The picnic is from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Fort Totten Park on Totten Avenue on June 2.

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