By Natalie Strom
The Marco Island Fire Department is supporting one of their own with their annual hot dog and bratwurst stand at this year’s Mullet Festival in Goodland. Every year the proceeds to these sales go towards local organizations such as the YMCA or Tommie Barfield Elementary. This year, however, proceeds will be going to Jerry Adams, a Driver/Engineer who has served the City of Marco Island since 1989 and is currently fighting a very serious form of cancer.
To become a firefighter at the age of 39 is not easy, but that’s exactly what Jerry Adams did. A master carpenter by trade, he chose to join Marco Island’s bravest to better serve his community. He became an instant leader on the force. As fellow MIFD Captain Tom Bogan describes him: “one of Jerry’s tasks has always been to mentor the young firefighters who come in here. In the fire service we are extremely traditional. He is the type of man who never takes a short-cut and he always taught that to the young guys who came in.”
In 2006, Adams, a frequent marathon runner, was diagnosed with throat cancer even though he was never a cigarette smoker. After a year-long battle, he successfully beat the cancer and came back to full-time duty at the Marco Island Fire Department.
One year later, in 2007, Adams won the Marco Island Fire Rescue Foundation Fireman of the Year Award. This was the first year an award like this was given. Jerry received the highest of honors for many reasons. “Jerry is in every room of this Department,” explains Don Jones, Division Chief. “From the baseboards and crown molding to the towel racks in the bathrooms, he is constantly working on the station even during his down time.” Described as a family man, hard worker and a leader on the scene, Jerry truly deserved the award.
Since then, Adams has continued to work full-time at the MIFD until this past Thanksgiving when he was diagnosed with both pancreas and liver cancer. Almost immediately he and his wife, Kay, went to Shands Hospital in Gainesville to be treated. He is currently receiving a six-week treatment of radiation and chemotherapy as surgery is not currently an option given the size of the tumors.
Jerry is truly in a fight for his life, but with a positive attitude comes positive results. His most recent update confirmed that one of the tumors has already shrunk by about 25 percent.
The Marco Island Fire Rescue Foundation, which began in 2006 in order to provide financial relief for Fire Rescue personnel and their families in times of injury and illness, has already donated $1,500 to Jerry and his family. They were given $1,000 to help pay for the hotel expense the family is incurring by staying in Gainesville for treatment. Their son, Sean, a medical student at Florida State University, was given a $500 gas card to be able to visit his parents. Jerry is also father to daughter, Katie, and grandfather to her two children, Charlie and Georgia.
Over twenty years ago, Jerry Adams helped to start the tradition of serving brats and hot dogs for a cause during the Mullet Festival at Stan’s. “He always had an open heart for all the charity events we did,” explains Bogan. “Whether it be the Mullet Festival, working with the YMCA, Tommie Barfield Elementary or the Taste of Marco, he always contributed 100 percent. He was always the motivator. Now it is time for us to be the motivators.”
The MIFD hopes that they will be able to contribute a significant amount to Jerry and his family after Mullet Festival weekend; January 27-29. There will also be a pancake breakfast held at the Fire Station on April 15 that will benefit the family. The Marco Island Fire Department and Fire Rescue Foundation plan to continue fundraising efforts for Jerry in the future.
Individual donations are also welcome. The MIFRF has set up an account at Mutual of Omaha Bank entitled Marco Island Fire Rescue Foundation Jerry Adams Cancer Fund. One may drop off a check made out to the above fund or even mail it in. Mutual of Omaha is located at 1770 San Marco Road, Marco Island, FL 34145.
To learn more contact the Marco Island Fire Department at 239-389-5040 or email [email protected]