Just as a Connecticut fire captain was admiring his department’s beautiful new fire engine last month, he learned that a young boy who loves fire trucks had been diagnosed with leukemia.
In an instant, the captain proudly snapped a picture of the pumper and created the Fire Trucks for Christian Facebook page, where he posted the photo to cheer up 4-year-old Christian Reynoso as he began treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“I was sitting there going, ‘Wow, I knew how it made me feel at 50 years old,’” Branford Fire Captain Joe Petrosino said of the engine. “I thought he would enjoy it also.”
He asked firefighter friends to post pictures as well, and the page took off. Thousands of images of fire trucks, helmets, badges and personnel have been posted from around Connecticut and the country, as well as from Australia, Kuwait and Denmark.
“It’s awesome,” said Christian’s mother, Kate Annunziato, of Hamden, Connecticut. “It’s gotten me through some hard days.”
Scrolling through the photos has become a welcome activity, especially during the two weeks that Christian spent in the hospital following his diagnosis on Aug. 20. He and his mom would look at the page at night when she would try to get him to settle down and relax at bedtime.
“It was like having a little piece of home,” Annunziato said. “It was something to distract him from everything going on around us.”
“For two weeks, most of his questions consisted of, ‘Are they going to stick me? Do I have to take medicine?’” Annunziato said. “It was a hard time. It was nice to see him into something else other than what was going on around him.”
Christian, who feels happy looking at the photos, went into remission after a month of treatment, and still has three years to go. On Tuesday, he began six months of aggressive chemotherapy, which will be followed by 30 months of maintenance chemotherapy. His mom is hopeful.
“All signs are pointing to that he’s going to do pretty good with the chemotherapy and hopefully stay in remission,” Annunziato said.
As her son continues his treatment, Annunziato hopes that people will keep posting photos and sending well wishes to her son, and she is grateful for Petrosino’s gesture. The fire captain had never met Christian before his illness, but is a longtime friend of Brad Young, who is Annunziato’s boyfriend and a former volunteer firefighter in Branford.
As the page racked up more than 7,000 ‘likes,” Petrosino has been blown away by the response. But he is not surprised one bit.
“When one of our members is down, we stand up,” he said. “And Christian, he is definitely going to be a fireman. No doubt about it.”
TODAY.com contributor Lisa A. Flam is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York. Follow her on Twitter.