Volunteers with the Lights & Ladders Brigade are back in action for the third annual Christmas season decorating homes with holiday joy for families dealing with a sick child with cancer.
Flossmoor Fire Department Captain Dan Bracken and his friends are bringing joy to others. The group has decorated 13 houses this year, building on the 2022 efforts that involved 200 volunteers.
Bracken and his wife, Lacey, organized The Finley Forever Foundation in memory of their daughter, Finley, to help raise awareness for families affected by pediatric cancers. Established in July 2021, the mission is to provide hope, support and financial assistance to local Chicago area families impacted by cancer.
Every December the popular event brings together numerous foundations, including The Tom Hopkins Foundation, Christmas Without Cancer and Project Fire Buddies, to help raise awareness of The Finley Forever Foundation’s recognition that holiday joy can be tough for families undergoing difficult and trying times when a child is fighting cancer.
“It’s difficult finding time to do very much of anything when someone is affected by cancer,” said Lacey Bracken, a former firefighter who serves as president of The Finley Forever Foundation. “Our daughter Finley’s diagnosis was a very rough and aggressive start, with a lot of complications, so hanging lights on our house was not on the list.
“Most of my husband’s family were insistent on doing it, and so they did, and Finley saw it. It ended up being our last Christmas with Finley, but we remember that being such a comfort and relief for our family.”
The event strives to help spread holiday joy by putting up lights and making lives easier for families.
“Last year, nearly 200 volunteers came to each home we decorated on our list. The support of the community is overwhelmingly kind and willing to help,” she added.
Bracken said firefighters from across states volunteer their time to decorate the homes of several recipients who have been previous applicants.
“Some of the homes of selected people we go out to decorate were applicants we have helped and already know,” she explained. “We also get referrals from organizations we work with, like Christmas Without Cancer, and asked if they had any specific homes they knew of or would like to nominate and would flow within our route to each neighboring town, etc.”
Residents got to see and hear the crew on Saturday, Dec. 9, en route to each 2023 applicant’s home in the recently donated fire truck and engine from the Romeoville Fire Department.
“We now have our ambulance and fire truck wrapped. Thanks to Image360, events have been so fun already, seeing people turn their heads back to see our giant purple Finley fire truck,” Bracken said.
Visit the Finley Forever Foundation for more inquiries and further resources or application questions/provisions for individuals and other assistance, including volunteering opportunities. Finley Forever Foundation’s efforts have assisted and helped almost 100 families to date.
“Something beautiful happened. Finley (was) here for two and a half, nearly three years, (yet) has changed so many people’s lives just from being here,” Bracken said.