CLAREMONT — Scheduled to undergo heart surgery, 10-year-old Levi Bonner got a send-off from firefighters throughout the region.
“Fire trucks and firefighters, that’s his thing,” said Levi’s dad, Rick Bonner.
Rick and his wife, Missy Lynn Bonner, were just as surprised by the escort they received Sunday morning when they were scheduled to bring their son to Boston.
Levi needed a cardiac ablation to correct an abnormal rhythm. Rick Bonner said his son had been sick from his condition for months.
Word got around town about Levi’s condition, and his love for firefighters, and that’s when a plan was put into place by Nick Koloski, a city councilor and volunteer firefighter.
“I had surgery as a child and remember how scared I was,” Koloski said. “I wanted to take that worry away and make it a positive experience he will never forget.”
Koloski knew the Bonner family from many volunteer encounters. Rick Bonner said that anytime Koloski asked for help for people in the community, like organizing a food or clothing drive, or holiday meal, they always pitch in.
“We really want to help people out,” Rick Bonner said.
Rick and Missy Lynn Bonner thought Koloski had arranged for a fire truck to meet them on Sunday morning to see Levi off to Boston. Koloski had bigger plans when he put the call out to his brothers and sisters in the fire fighting community.
“My public safety family hit it out of the park,” Koloski said.
Instead, there were trucks from several departments, including Claremont, Newport and Goshen, and even a police cruiser to give Levi and his family an escort all the way to the Massachusetts border. Along the way, fire trucks from Derry, Salem and Windham also picked up the convoy as it headed south.
“It was a pretty amazing thing,” Rick Bonner said.
The family stayed at a hotel the first night, before Levi was scheduled for tests and intake Monday morning. When they got up Monday morning, Boston firefighters were outside with a truck, ready to bring Levi to the hospital. First he got to see the inside of the truck, and ride it to the hospital. Rick Bonner said his son was a bit stunned, but never stopped smiling.
“It’s one of those things he’s always loved,” Rick Bonner said.
Levi’s time in Boston included a visit with Mayor Marty Walsh in Boston’s City Hall, and a trip to the Engine Company 3 station after his successful surgery.
“We were happy to help,” said Boston Firefighter Marc Saunders.
Levi got a tour of the station house, and was made an honorary member of Engine 3’s company. Saunders said the boy’s always welcome to come back and visit. Rick Bonner said his son is doing well and expected to fully recover. He’ll never forget this trip, he said.
Koloski said nothing would have happened without the generosity of people in the various fire and police departments who helped out, and without the help in Walsh’s office.