Portsmouth Firefighter/EMT Bruce Gosselin supports his CHaD buddy Toby Mann, 12, as he tries out the firehose at Central Fire Station on Court Street on Thursday. The program matched up Toby who is diagnosed with high-functioning autism and anxiety with Gosselin and Portsmouth Deputy Fire Chief James Heinz, not pictured, who will play in Battle of the Badges in September to benefit the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock.Ioanna Raptisfirstname.lastname@example.org
August 22, 2014 2:00 AM
PORTSMOUTH — Toby Mann loved riding in the fire truck the best.
The 12-year-old from Manchester received the VIP treatment at the central Portsmouth fire station Thursday afternoon
Toby is a "CHaD buddy" to Deputy Fire Chief James Heinz and firefighter/EMT Bruce Gosselin. The two fire professionals were chosen to play in the 2014 Battle of the Badges Autumn Baseball Classic in September to benefit patients and families of Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock.
This is Gosselin's fourth year playing and the second for Heinz.
Toby's mother, Hannah Mann, brought him to the fire station and she had fun watching as he tried on firefighter equipment, rode the truck and used a hose. He asked about the yellow exhaust pipes and got to see the chief's office and the living quarters for the firefighters.
"Toby is a different face of CHaD," Mann said. "While a lot of children there have cancer and other serious illnesses, Toby was diagnosed with high-functioning autism with anxiety and sensory dysfunction disorder."
Mann said Toby was first diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder at the age of 4, but that the diagnosis "just didn't fit."
She took him to a pediatrician at Dartmouth-Hitchcock's Manchester office, who sent Toby to psychiatric neurologists and other specialists.
Toby is one of four children, with a twin, Noah, a sister, Emily, 20, and a younger brother, Jack, 8.
His mother said Toby currently is only being treated pharmacologically for his anxiety and with behavior modification for the rest of his diagnoses.
"We finally received an individual education plan (IEP) this summer, which will help him a lot in school," Mann said. Toby will be an eighth-grader at Parkside Middle School in Manchester.
She said Toby is bullied a lot in school and comes home most days saying he "has no friends."
"It's hard for him, as Noah plays football, gets good grades and is popular," Mann said.
She describes Toby as a sweet child who surprised her by baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies for her the other day.
Toby said his favorite thing in school is science. He was excited about a recent trip to Six Flags New England.
"I rode the Sky Screamer," he said as his eyes lit up. "It was so high, you could see the whole city."
Mann began to volunteer at CHaD in Manchester when her youngest child went off to school, and she now works there as a scheduling secretary.
As she watched the group of firefighters give Toby their full attention, Mann said, "It's nice to see heroes as humans."
Gosselin planned to be off for the shift so that he would not get called away while the Manns were visiting. Heinz was not able to be present Thursday afternoon.
Gosselin said each firefighter on the baseball team must raise a minimum of $1,000.
"Last year, the event raised $40,000 from both fire and police units," he said. Gosselin will play center field and Heinz will play third base.
Gosselin said during the year, the firefighters chosen to play in the game are invited to CHaD in Lebanon to visit the young patients.
"The money we raise goes toward the kids' birthday parties and holiday parties at the hospital," he said. "It's pretty special. Instead of wheeling the kids to the party on a stretcher, they put them in wheelbarrows and do other fun things."
Gosselin said the money raised also goes to families to help with travel costs by purchasing gas cards.
There is a fund-raiser for the city's firefighter ball players at the 99 Restaurant in Portsmouth on Sept. 3, with 15 percent of the bill between 6 and 10 p.m. going to the fund-raising efforts.
The 2014 CHaD Battle of the Badges Autumn Baseball Classic will showcase a battle between police officers and firefighters from across New Hampshire at the Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, home of the Fisher Cats, in Manchester at 1:35 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27.
It's a great event," Gosselin said. "It costs $10 a ticket, but kids under 10 are free." He said between innings there are fun games for the kids to participate in with the firefighters and the police.
"We usually root for the blue," Mann said. "But, this year, it will definitely be for the red."
To donate to the CHaD Battle of the Badges and to purchase tickets for the game, visitwww.chadbaseball.org. Once there, individuals can be found by name for donations.
PORTSMOUTH — The Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire are joining with Portsmouth Professional Fire Fighters Local 1313 to help keep kids warm this winter.
The Portsmouth firefighters union is working with the state union to try to raise $3,400, enough to buy 100 children in the city new winter coats, picked especially for their size and in their favorite color.
Brian Ryll, the vice president of Local 1313, said Wednesday this is the first time the union has participated in this kind of fund-raising campaign to raise money to buy new coats for children in struggling local families.
"Doing something locally we'll get to see kids in our community walking around with these coats," Ryll said during an interview at Central Station on Wednesday. "It's kind of an instant gratification for us and nice to give back to the communities we work in."
Ryll agreed that just because there are many affluent people who live in the city, that doesn't mean there are not families struggling to get by. "I think in any community you get those neighborhoods who definitely get those poverty-stricken families and Portsmouth is no different," Ryll said.
Russ Osgood, the president of Local 1313, said the local firefighters through their fund-raising can also help families who may be struggling to pay their mortgage or rent, and can't afford a good winter coat.
"We get it every year (during their toy drive). 'Do you have any coats, do you have any mittens, do you have any hats,'" Osgood said Wednesday. "This is really going to fill that gap."
Unlike other drives to make sure kids have winter coats, the firefighters will be raising money they will then use to buy new coats from an American company with a union shop, they said.
"The kids get a personalized coat that's made specifically to fit them ... and this is something that's theirs, this isn't something that was a hand-me-down from a family member," Ryll said. "This is a brand new coat that they can call their own."
Dave Lang, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, said they are working with Operation Warm, a nonprofit dedicated to providing new winter coats to children in need.
Lang said they decided to do the drive because there's a "really significant need" in the state.
"The number of kids in the state of New Hampshire at poverty levels, it seems like it's only getting larger," Lang said Wednesday.
When you combine the growing poverty level with the state's "bitter, bitter cold winters," the need could not be more clear, he said.
The state union is so far working with 19 local unions to raise enough money to buy new coats for 4,000 kids statewide, he said, which is about 10 percent of the children in New Hampshire living at poverty level.
"Firefighters respond to emergencies all the time; this is one of the emergencies we're going to respond to," Lang said.
The firefighters are hoping to have the money raised by the end of October so they can have the new coats to the kids before it gets too cold.
To donate to the fund-raising drive, visit the state firefighters union Web site at www.pffnh.org. From there, you can click on the Portsmouth link and donate right to Portsmouth or to other state departments. You can also visit Local 1313's Web site at www.portcityfire.com to find out more, to donate or to learn about a special fund-raising events at British Beer Co.