HAMMOND — They're normally rushing to a blazing building or racing to the scene of an accident. However, Hammond firefighters sometimes come to the rescue of a broken-hearted teen.
Shortly before the end of the year, a Hammond High School student was bullied and attacked by fellow classmates. It was May 16, and the teen was a new student at the high school, said Hammond firefighter Mike Hull, president of the Hammond Firefighters Local 556.
“They were hit a few times, to where the staff called an ambulance to the school,” Hull said, declining to identify the student's name or gender — using the pronoun they — to protect the teen from future bullying.
Behind the ambulance was a fire truck with four firefighters inside. Seeing the distraught student with taped-up glasses, they looked for a way to help. One of them texted Hull a photo of the glasses, covered in layers of Scotch tape on each side of the frames, to see what could be done.
While the school staff took care of disciplining the bullies and the emergency medical technicians took care of the student's physical wounds, Hull wondered who would take care of the teen's broken self-esteem.
“The student was distraught,” Hull said. “They said the other kids made fun of them for being poor and because of their glasses. They were new to the area. The student and their mom recently moved here from Illinois. This was their introduction to Hammond.”
Hull and the other firefighters gathered resources from a past fundraiser and reached out to the teen's family. They were able to pay for the student to get an appointment to see an eye doctor and pick out a pair of glasses. The University Eye Institute in Hammond also offered a discounted rate.
On Friday, the firefighters came to the teen's door with the brand new glasses the teen had picked out.
“(The teen) was in tears right away when the guys came to the door,” Hull said. “We wanted to show a better side of Hammond.”
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Hull said Hammond firefighters have been doling out random acts of kindness to help spread positivity in the city. The other day, they pulled over and helped a boy fix his broken bike chain on a street corner in Hessville. A passerby witnessed the encounter and put a picture of it on Facebook; the post garnered dozens of shares and hundreds of likes.
Recently, firefighters saw a group of children playing baseball in a field with old, worn equipment and using bricks as bases. The firefighters later bought some new baseball equipment and bases to hand off to the young baseball enthusiasts.
“It may costs us $20 or $30 to do these things, but it means the world to these kids,” Hull said.
Their next venture is to put up some basketball hoops in a Hessville park, and firefighters are currently working with a machine shop in getting the building materials.
“When I took over as president I wanted to do little things in the community,” Hull said. “I noticed the more things we do for people, the more I get calls from firefighters about situations, asking how we can step in. It's really spread in a great way and everyone has stepped up big time in making all of these things happen.”
— Times staff writer Giles Bruce contributed to this report.
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