Firefighters’ fund-raiser helps burn center campaign top $1 million mark


Sharing a conversation at the March 23 Connecticut Burn Center fund-raiser are, from left, Bridgeport Hospital President & CEO Bill Jennings, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Bridgeport Fire Chief Brian Rooney and Fairfield Fire Chief Richard Felner.

The 450 guests at the Bridgeport Firefighters Local 834 “United for Recovery” dinner helped lift the fund-raising campaign for the Connecticut Burn Center at Bridgeport Hospital over the $1 million mark — more than two-thirds of the way toward the campaign’s $1.5 million goal.

The announcement was made by Bridgeport Hospital Foundation President Steve Jakab during the sold-out event, held at Vazzano’s Four Seasons in Stratford on March 23.

Among the dignitaries on hand were U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, Stratford Mayor John Harkins, Monroe First Selectman Steve Vavrek, Stratford state Rep. Laura Hoydick, Bridgeport City Council President Tom McCarthy and several fire department leaders from throughout the region.

“I brag about the work you’ve done when I’m in Washington and will continue to brag about the work you do,” Blumenthal told the Burn Center staff. “You are a national model for burn care.”

“At Bridgeport Hospital we have the best burn care anybody can get in the world,” Finch told the audience. “We believe in this mission and we believe in keeping people safe.”

Lauretti, whose brother Luke was a patient in the burn center last year, conveyed his personal thanks.

“I can’t tell you what a fan I’ve become and will continue to be,” he said. “The Connecticut Burn Center at Bridgeport Hospital represents the very best.”

Also on hand at the fundraiser were former burn patients, including Portland Fire Lt. Todd Ghent.

“When you think of burns, you think of Bridgeport Hospital,” he said. “The care I received was absolutely incredible.”

Bridgeport Hospital President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Jennings thanked the firefighters for their support and the burn team.

“I have the privilege to lead those who possess the attributes of caring and compassion, and the skills of healing touch,” Jennings said of the center’s caregivers. “I am thankful and proud.”

Including the $35,000 in estimated proceeds from the March 23 event and more than $28,000 raised at a Firefighters Local 834 event last fall, Jakab said firefighters from across Connecticut have surpassed their pledge of $150,000 to the burn center.

Other major donors include the United Illuminating Co., Northeast Utilities and Newman’s Own. In addition to helping to pay for recent renovations, Jakab said a portion of the funds raised will be used to maintain the new hospitality suite in the center used by families of burn patients, an idea inspired by firefighters.

“Thank you so much,” Dr. John Schulz, burn center medical director, told the firefighters. “You have made an incredible difference.”

The United for Recovery dinner was chaired by burn center nurse Melissa Emanuel and her husband, Bridgeport Fire Lt. Sal Emanuel, of Stratford, and co-chaired by Bridgeport firefighter Zoltan Szabo of Trumbull. Others on the event planning committee included Assistant Fire Chief Dominick Carfi; Fire Lt. Frank Falanga and his wife, Liz; Fire Commissioner Jim Meszoros Sr. and  Barb Susi, all from Bridgeport; Fred Garrity Jr. of Trumbull; Giuliana Santiago of Milford; and burn center physician assistant Kate Moran of Hamden.

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