Nearly a year after the death of her son, Firefighter Michael Kennedy, who was killed fighting a 9-alarm blaze on Beacon Street last March, Kathy Crosby-Bell says the foundation she began in his honor has already raised almost $500,000, and is hoping to raise more with a team of runners competing in the Boston Marathon next month.
“It was Michael’s spirit that inspired the Last Call Foundation,” said Crosby-Bell, sitting Thursday in the firehouse on Boylston Street where her son responded to his final call. “I won’t be satisfied until every firefighter is as protected as they can be in such a dangerous job.”
The Last Call Foundation raises funds to support Boston firefighters. Its first three initiatives are to provide a new comfort and canteen truck for the Boston Sparks Association to use when they respond to emergencies; to equip Boston’s firehouses with industrial washers and dryers to clean their uniforms; and to fund fire safety research at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
“I want people to continue to be inspired by Michael,” said Crosby-Bell.
Kennedy, 33, and Lieutenant Edward Walsh Jr., 43, were killed March 26, 2014, after they became trapped in the basement of 298 Beacon St.
Crosby-Bell recalled the joy she felt watching Kennedy run his first Boston Marathon from the Boylston Street firehouse where he eventually served. The team running on behalf of the Last Call Foundation has 46 runners, she said, and anyone who wants to donate to the runners can do so at https://www.crowdrise.com/lastcallfoundation.
So far, the runners have raised nearly $140,000, according to the funding website. In addition to funds donated by individuals, the foundation is hoping for corporations, organizations, and associations to sponsor runners by contacting the foundation directly, at http://lastcallfoundation.org/ . Individuals who want to donate to the fund can also do so on that website.
So far, Crosby-Bell said, the foundation has raised enough to purchase four specialized washers that help clean dangerous toxins off firefighters’ uniforms, and a fifth is on the way. The canteen truck is partially paid for, she said, and she hopes to have it purchased in full by this summer. And the first phase of a project at WPI to design a fireproof fire hose is close to completion, she said.
Coming to her son’s firehouse, Crosby-Bell said, she feels close to him, and the importance of the foundation feels clear.
“Michael is a lot more than a memory,” she said. “He’s a spirit. And anybody who is doing anything to help firefighters is taking part in that spirit.”