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Boy with terminal cancer finally has reason to smile after becoming honorary firefighter

An Ohio fire department made a 6-year-old boy with terminal leukemia an honorary firefighter in a heartwarming ceremony.
/ Source: TODAY

When a blaze broke out next to the Fredericktown Community Fire District's headquarters, the department knew there was only one tiny firefighter who could save the day.

Brian Ford, 6, who has acute undifferentiated leukemia, was made an honorary firefighter by the department on June 30, just in time to help put out the miniature blaze next to the firehouse with a blast of the hose.

The boy from Alexandria, Ohio, put on his full firefighter gear as he was cheered on by a crowd of about 200 people, including members of the local police department and six surrounding fire departments.

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It was a heartwarming moment amid news that Brian was given about two weeks to live, according to his father. He is currently in hospice care at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus.

"He still brags about that day to everybody and anybody that will listen to him,'' Timothy Bowers, Brian's father, told TODAY. "He'll go up to people and say, 'Hey, I'm a fireman.'''

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FCFD firefighter Jason Bostic has become a close family friend since meeting Brian after he was diagnosed in 2014. Bostic said the boy was his inspiration in the last two editions of the Scott Firefighter Stairclimb for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, an event Bostic has participated in for the past 10 years.

"Brian is the same age as my son Jonas, so that made it a lot more personal,'' Bostic told TODAY. "I knew it could happen, but to someone so close to his age, it really hits you hard."

Last year, Timothy and Victoria Bowers were invited to the firehouse with Brian and his seven sisters for a special ride in the fire truck and other festivities.

This year, Bostic wanted to make it a special day for Brian so he suggested to FCFD Chief Scott Mast that they make the boy the first honorary firefighter in the department's history.

"I told our chief that this is one of the things we're supposed to be doing in our calling,'' Bostic said.

Bowers said Bostic has been a big presence in the boy's life.

"Every transplant, every hospital stay, Jason has been with us,'' Bowers said. "He's always been someone we can call and talk to."

On the day of the ceremony, Brian was on pain medication but brightened up when he saw the large crowd there for him.

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"You could just see the light in his eyes,'' Bostic said. "At one point he had his mask on and he said, 'Can you see that I'm smiling?' I told the guys beforehand that whatever happens tonight, if he's smiling, that's the only thing that matters."

The Bowers now look to honor Brian by creating the nonprofit Brian and Lu Foundation to help families of children with terminal illnesses. The organization is named after their son and a 17-year-old girl whom Brian befriended at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

Lu passed away earlier this year from an infection after battling cancer, according to Bowers.

"There's a lot of emotions,'' Bowers said. "You're upset, you're aggravated, you're frustrated, and then you get back to the sorrow and sadness for your child and the other families you meet going through the same thing. We just want to do something to help."

Follow writer Scott Stump on Twitter.