When local fire fighter Jeffrey DeJessie heard about a fundraiser to help two young soldiers who had been severely wounded in Afghanistan, his reaction was, “Why aren’t we involved in this?”
It didn’t take long for DeJessie to gather the support of the rest of the Bloomfield Fire Department. In the space of a couple weeks, DeJessie managed to raise $1,200 to help the two soldiers, Lance Corporal Adrian Simone from Montville and Private 1st Class Derek T. McConnell from North Caldwell. Each of the young men lost both his legs in combat in Afghanistan.
DeJessie said he requested a donation from everyone who visited the firehouse. “Pretty much nobody got by,” he said with a grin. “People gave twenty, forty dollars. We managed to raise $1,200.”
DeJessie admitted that raising that much money from $20-40 donations wasn’t easy but, he explained, he didn’t take no for an answer.
“I pled my case. I said, these kids, these babies, have no legs,” he said. “We rode hard. I’m persuasive and a little scary. I’m a hound.”
The fundraiser, sponsored by the Cedar Grove Elks Lodge, took place on Saturday, May 19. Members of the Bloomfield Fire Department attended the afternoon event, which included a barbeque, Tricky Tray and live music.
DeJessie said he was disappointed that neither of the soldiers was able to attend the event because he would have liked to have met them.
“His father said [his son] runs three miles a day on his prosthetic legs,” he marveled, saying Simone was trying to get deployed back to Afghanistan.
The other soldier, McConnell is reportedly still undergoing treatment.
On Monday, DeJessie said he was pleased with his department’s support of the cause. “The last six people we hired [at the Bloomfield Fire Department] were all veterans,” he said. “Me being a marine corp veteran, I was proud. I said, 'This is good. We’re doing something for a good cause'.”
The Elks Lodge is located at 405 Bowden Road in Cedar Grove. For more information or to make a donation, call Paul (973-768-1676), Bob (973-224-1580), or Mike (973-951-0338.)
Make checks payable to "CEDAR GROVE ELKS #2237 WOUNDED SOLDIER."