Some of you may remember the fundraiser we did for a young man named Ian Swarr a few months ago. We had two giants of the fire service lead a very robust training; recently promoted District Chief Pat Nichols of Boston Fire Department and Lt. Mark Gregory of FDNY both founders of P.L. Vulcan Training Concepts As being true firefighting brothers, Mark and Pat both offered us the opportunity to visit their respective stations should we ever be in the Boston or New York City area.
This week we were scheduled to attend the New England Fire Expo in Springfield, Massachusetts and after a quick look at the map, I realized I was just a few hours away from Boston. Pat was actually on a family vacation out of town as they welcomed his son back from a safe and successful combat tour in Afghanistan with the Army. He graciously set me up with one of his former roughnecks from Tower-Ladder 10 and now lieutenant of the engine.
Prior to my visit the previous day, I had the opportunity to see the Red Sox play at historic Fenway Park. The only thing better than visiting this baseball palace was getting in half price and siting wherever I wanted beacause it was a rain delayed game. I also got a few good pictures of my namesake the Green Monster.
On the way out I passed by the historic Ladder 15 - Engine 33. My heart almost skipped a beat when I saw that Foxfire was already in service on their aerial ladder!
Pat graciously set up a visit with Lt. Ryan McGovern of Engine 28. Lt. McGovern was not only a gracious host, he was also one of the most friendly and professional leaders I have had the privilege of meeting in the fire service. I had the chance over the next 24 hours to not only spend time with the great men and woman of Engine 28 but also Captain Garry of TL10 and his truckies.
One of the great things about the Boston Fire Department (and there are too many to count) is the very high percentage of veterans they have on the department. Lt. McGovern was not only one of those veterans but he also served with distinction in the US Army Special Forces.
I have a very special connection to the Special Forces and you will always see me wearing a black Killed In Action bracelet in honor of my friend Maj Guy “Bear” Barattieri. Maj. Barattieri lost his life in October of 2006 in Iraq. Although Lt. McGovern and Maj. Barattieri did not know each other, I felt very honored to ride a fire engine commanded by one of his Special Forces brothers.
The morning started out as most morning start in fire stations around the country, sitting around a kitchen table with a cup of coffee telling stories. It was not too long after sitting down that we had our first call of the day, a downed motorcycle. We arrived on the scene to find not one but two people injured when their motorcycle came to an abrupt stop on the bumper of a pick-up truck. The man had a open compound fracture of the leg and his female passenger was also injured. TL10 and Lt. McGovern and his Engine crew immediately sprung in to action administering first aid and stabilizing the patients. Lt. McGovern’s leadership was very apparent as he not only gently reassured the patient that she would be okay but he also calmly directed his crew on next steps. Just as we were leaving, we were dispatched to an elderly lady that was having trouble breathing. We were met by this terminally ill elderly woman’s agitated husband in the hallway. You could tell both his fear and frustration seeing his wife of many years so sick. Once again Lt. McGovern not only eased the man’s concerns, he also directed his team to make the patient as comfortable as possible until the medic arrived. As the patient's husband kept getting more and more frustrated, Lt. McGovern kept getting more and more friendly and reassuring. This is the type of leadership and compassion that all of us in the fire service could learn from. Grace under pressure and calm under fire, you could tell this man was a true leader. We finally returned back to quarters after a few more fire runs for a great carry out lunch from one of the outstanding restaurants in their up and coming area of Jamaica Plains.
I had the chance to bring some MN8 Foxfire "goodies" to the crew and several of the guys immediately put their helmet bands on their helmets. After a few visits to the dark bathroom, showing how our products worked in the dark, the Captain had me put grip wrap on the tool mounted on the bumber of TL10 and bars on the outside of the tower bucket. It filled me with such pride knowing that these brothers would be able to now have Foxfire help them reduce disorientation and increase accountabilty with our advanced photoluminescent technolgy.
As many of you know, I spend quite a lot of time on the road eating dinner by myself and staying in lonely hotel rooms. It is always so great to be able to break bread with my firefighting brothers across the country. Having someone to talk to before I "hit the rack" and telling jokes over dinner at the fire-hall reminds me how lucky I am to be part of the firefighting family. We all settled in for a fantastic meal prepared by the station's best cook. After a very filling dinner, we all watched the Stanley Cup finals as we cheered on the hometown Bruins. It was a very exciting overtime Stanley Cup game surrounded by some of the most professional and friendly firefighters I have ever had the chance to meet. We turned in for a quiet night in-house with no runs and woke the next morning refreshed and ready to go. We bid our farewells and I slid down the pole one last time. As I watched the station fade in the rearview mirror, I thought about how lucky I was to have met these great men and how furtunate Boston is to have their protection. Even though I’m not from Boston, I know what truly makes Boston strong.
When the MN8-Foxfire crew heads to FDIC every year the highlight of the show is always making and rekindling connections with fellow firefighters. This year was extra special for us, as we got to see Robert Weidmann of FDNY’s Rescue Company 2 back up on his feet after a tragic accident.
In December 2011, Rob and fellow firefighter James Gersbeck were searching the top floor of an apartment building for reported trapped occupants. The entire floor flashed and trapped both brothers inside, engulfed in flames. Both men managed to escape the blaze, but suffered serious injuries. Rob was burned over 60% if his body, and spent over 3 months in the New York Presbyterian Burn Unit where he underwent more than 14 surgeries and skin grafts.
MN8-Foxfire President Zach Green had the privilege of meeting Rob, James and other members of Rescue Company 2 on a trip to NYC with Capt. Willie Wines Jr. of IronFiremen and Wooden Ladders and Rhett Fleitz of The Fire Critic in 2010. They originally traveled to the New York area to inform brothers about Foxfire’s advanced photoluminescent technology. The station graciously welcomed them and Foxfire’s mission and left a special impact on the group.
At Foxfire, our most important goal is to help our firefighting brothers all over the world, simply because we are all brothers. When one brother falls, we all stumble, so when news of the incident spread the trio felt called to put together the FDNY Rescue 2 Mayday Fund to benefit Rob and James. After the close of the fundraiser, Zach, Willie and Rhett made a return trip to NYC to present a check to the station.
Rescue Company 2 like many other departments never leave a brother alone. Capt. Flaherty even let Zach visit the ward were Rob was recovering at the burn center later the next day. Witnessing this overwhelming sense of brotherhood left a life-long impact on all of us as a Rescue 2 member of the station stayed with Rob, who was still in the burn unit, 24/7 so he would never be alone.
One of the most joyous moments of the trade show was seeing Rob coming to the MN8-Foxfire booth at FDIC. Although his road to recovery is not yet over, it was amazing to see Rob on his feet, laughing, talking, and seeming like any other firefighter attending the trade show. He has made a remarkable recovery since the last time we saw him in the New York burn unit.
The Foxfire crew also had the privilege of enjoying dinner with Rob one night, and his positive attitude and amazing recovery touched the whole team. Rob has teamed up with Sons of the Flag Burn Foundation, a non-profit organization which provides support to military service members, first responders and civilians who have survived burn injuries. He and his brothers at Sons of the Flag are living the highest principles of the fire service and military. When one of us hurts, we all hurt, when one of us falls we all carry each other. I think Shakespeare said it best in his play King Henry V "From now until the end of the world, we and it shall be remembered. We few, we Band of Brothers. For he who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother."
MN8 Foxfire had the privilege of returning to the Harrisburg Fire Expo May 16-19 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Unlike many other shows we do, like FDIC and the Baltimore Fire Expo, the Harrisburg show focuses entirely on fire equipment sales. Also unlike any other show, this show is housed at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center and the aroma of livestock kept us company over the weekend! After hearing back from so many of our fans who missed us last year, we decided to come back for our second show at Harrisburg. Since we attended with one of our vendors in 2011, we knew it would be a great show, but we didn’t know just how incredible it was going to be.
Zach arrived in Harrisburg on Thursday around 11pm after an 11,000-mile, 10-day trip up down and around the US and Canada, so he was pleasantly surprised to find Kelly, Tom, and Captain Wines (Iron Fireman) with the booth already set up for the following morning. With prime real estate in the corner of one showroom, Foxfire was ready and raring to go for a great weekend!
We knew it was going to be a good show Friday morning when we saw the line of people waiting for our booth before the gates had even opened. We were honored to see so many people who had heard of Foxfire and were eager to see it with their own eyes. To see their faces coming out of the dark room, where we demonstrate how our advanced photoluminescent technology helps reduce disorientation and increase accountability, is always motivating. It never ceases to amaze us how quickly people go from skeptics to believers after seeing the benefits of our technology in the blacked out trailer or tent.
Over the course of the weekend we were happy to host several special guests, including our celebrity spokesman Captain Wines of Ironfiremen blog fame, and Andrew Arnold of Box Alarm Leather, our partner on the new illuminating, reflective lifetime guaranteed leather radio straps and accessories. He was joined by his awesome wife, Mary, who helped custom fit and demonstrate these great new products. We were also joined by several members of our independent firefighter sales team, Boots On The Street (B.O.T.S.), Jesse Spruell, Chavez Wilson, Bruce Kaufman, Bryan Sypniewski. For us at Foxfire, we were privileged to bring in our B.O.T.S. who typically work apart from our Cincinnati headquarters. Our B.O.T.S. are found all around the country, making individual sales to firehouses and allowing us to cover more ground and reach more firefighters with our safety products. B.O.T.S. are such a crucial part of building the Foxfire community, so it was exciting to work with them in person and see them do such a great job. If you would like more information on how to join the B.O.T.S. team click here.
Capt. Wines even brought a very special guest with him on this trip, his lovely wife Donna. Many of you know Captain Wines, award winning blogger of Wooden Ladders Iron Firemen, and this was the first show his wife has been able to attend. With such a huge following, Captain Wines makes an impact on firefighters all over the country, talking about the brotherhood firemen share, the rich history, and longstanding traditions. It was great to be able to have his wife see what a meaningful contribution he makes to the brotherhood. He was so excited to have her travel with him that he ended up buying her not one but TWO new cars!!!
After Friday’s show, the team found a local Mexican restaurant – a Foxfire favorite activity! – and shared stories over margaritas with our new tradeshow best friends, David Firestein and his crew at Powercall Sirens. The famous Dave Statter of Statter911 even graced us with his presence for dinner.
We also had some very special guests: Delicia and Troy Swarr, parents of our own hero, Ian. Ian, one of our biggest fans, is a thirteen year old suffering from Epidermolysis bullosa (EB), which causes severe and painful blistering of the skin. On Saturday, after a second hard day of non-stop work, the Foxfire team was tired, but not too tired to visit our hero in his hometown outside Harrisburg. Ian and his family joined us for dinner where the Foxfire team and our friends from Powercall Siren carried on with stories and fun and had an overall great time. The highlight, however, would have been when Ian asked for an Orange Crush (meaning the soda), and received an Orange Crush mixed drink instead! Lucky for us, Ian is an honest guy and let us know about the mix-up. And don’t worry: there were no shortage of offers to take the drink off his hands, so it didn’t go to waste. Thanks to the Swarr family for being part of such a wonderful evening!
Sunday turned out to be the busiest day of the weekend, and we were lucky to have Ian as part of our crew at the booth. Ian was anything but a spectator. He jumped right in, helping customers find products, making sales pitches, and ringing up sales. We thought Ian was excited to touch his first $100 bill, but he absolutely lit up as he made his first sale. Ian showed a phone case to a customer, giving information about Foxfire and our products and answering all the customer’s questions. He beamed as he made the transaction and watched a satisfied customer leave our booth with a bag in hand.
We here at Foxfire couldn’t have hoped for a better show, and we thank our team members, B.O.T.S., and the many special guests we saw over the weekend. To you, our fans, thanks for encouraging us to come to the show and, as always, thank you for your continued support!
It's here! This week is when Fire Department Instructor Conference (FDIC), the world's largest firefighter training conference and exhibition, is held in Indianapolis.
FDIC is a huge event for MN8-Foxfire. It gives us the chance to meet thousands of firefighters and demonstrate how Foxfire products can help increase accountability and decrease disorientation, thereby keeping them safer on the job.
Today, we dropped our trailer off at the Indiana Convention Center ready for our booth setup on Wednesday (exhibits are open Thursday, Friday and Saturday). If you're attending FDIC, you won't want to miss the MN8-Foxfire Booth (#5571). We have our largest booth yet because we have so many things planned, including some BIG surprises! We can't reveal them all to you now, but we can give you you a sneak peek of where you can find MN8-Foxfire during FDIC and what will be happening at our booth:
- If you're attending one of the Vent-Enter-Search Hands on Training (H.O.T.) training classes on Monday or Tuesday, you may notice some tools illuminated by some familiar photoluminescent technology. These illuminating hooks and axes will be used by class participants during the training.
- Foxfire products will also be part of the Man vs. Machinery H.O.T. classes, led by Lt. Mark Gregory of FDNY and Lt. Pat Nichols of Boston FD. If you're attending one of these sessions, you're certain to notice helmets with Foxfire illuminating helmet bands and other illuminating accessories.
- Thursday, exhibits open at 1 p.m. at the Indiana Convention Center. At 2:30 p.m., we'll be holding a big "unveiling" event for a major product announcement. Everyone who attends this unveiling, held at our booth #5571, will receive a special prize.
- We'll be introducing a total of 5 new products/product lines for the very first time! Since last year, our product line has considerably expanded. In fact, all of our products will be on display/available for purchase during the show. We are very excited about making these new products available to you, our fellow firefighters. As always, you'll be able to view these products in the light and in the dark in our blackout tents so you can see the illumination for yourself. Several of the new products grew from suggestions from our fans and product users. If you aren't able to attend FDIC and see these new products for yourself, we'll be making them available to you and letting you know about them and how you can purchase them later in the week.
- Two of the new products are through collaborations with companies we are big fans of: Fat Ivan and Box Alarm Leather. We can't wait to let you know what these product are!
- Our booth will also be a hub of activity for some of our firefighting blogger friends. Rhett Fleitz, the Fire Critic, Willie Wines Jr., Iron Firemen and Dave Statter, Statter911 will all be spending considerable time at our booth, so be sure to stop by to meet them! Willie and Rhett will once again be helping with Foxfire product demonstrations, so you can ask them firsthand about their experiences using our products.
- You'll also find Mark Gregory and Pat Nichols, from PL Vulcan Fire Training Concepts spending time at the MN8-Foxfire booth.
That's it, our sneak peek of everything we have going on this week for FDIC. If you're attending the show, be sure to put us on our "don't miss" list! Will we see you there?
Here's the MN8-Foxfire trailer, parked in the convention center, and ready to go for the week!
A few months ago we received an exciting call from the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber telling us that they had nominated us for a very prestigious award. Every year the Ohio Chamber of Commerce asks each of Ohio's 22 regional chamber of commerce offices to nomitate an individual company for the Ohio Chamber of Commerece's Excellence in Entrepreneuership Award. This award is presented to an Ohio company that best demonstrates outstanding performance, growth, sustainability, innovation, and has a proven impact on their community.
Last week, a few members of the MN8 Foxfire team made the trip to the statehouse theater in Columbus for the award ceremony. There were 300-400 people in attendance. The keynote speech was by Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. She gave an impassioned speech on innovation and leadership. Carly remained on stage with Andrew Doehrel, president of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce for the award presentation.
I was both honored and humbled to find out that MN8 Foxfire was actually one of the three finalist to be brought up on stage. The governor himself actually appeared via video to announce the winner. When he announced MN8 Foxfire as Entrepreneur of the Year and recipient of the 2013 Excellence in Entrepreneurship, I was completely overcome with emotion.
With this award we also received a check for $25,000. We are firm believers in the "paying it forward" principle and we plan on using a portion of that money to give back to our brother and sister firefighters. We will be working with the Ohio Fire Marshal to identify financially stressed departments in Ohio so we can give them Foxfire products.
As I took in this experience, I thought about how incredible this journey has been over the last few years. I thought about how much fun I have had visiting fire departments all of the world. I thought about what started as a novel idea to help firefighters increase accountability and reduce disorientation has turned into such a thriving and growing company. Words can not express how privilaged I am knowing that 40,000 firefighters in 25+ countries are now safer because of Foxfire.
As I began to speak I remembered three very distinct dreams I had as a young kid. I wanted to be a US Marine, a firefighter and a entrepreneur. I also thought of all those great people and institutions in my life that helped make me who I am today and how none of this would have been possible with out all of their love, support, leadership and connections. For those of you who have a dream, follow it, sometimes they do come true.
I think Theodore Roosevelt said it best:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."