Lights, ladders, strength: Local fire departments brighten spirits of families battling cancer

Dozens of Illinois firefighters decorate homes for vacations

by: Mike Lowe

Posted: December 3, 2021 / 6:27 PM CST / Updated: December 3, 2021 / 9:31 PM CST

CHICAGO — A cancer diagnosis is enough to cloud one’s mind, but thanks to a few special volunteers, some families in the Chicago area can have a brighter outlook this holiday season.

A child’s struggle with cancer could have meant that an overburdened family would have no decorations this holiday season. But then a group of firefighters and first responders came to the rescue.

There were no Christmas lights at the home of Rachel Clark and Eric Anderson in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago on Friday afternoon.

“It was hard to do much more than put one foot in front of the other,” Clark said.

The couple have six children and this has been an extremely challenging year.

Their 4-year-old daughter Georgianna “Georgie” was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer.

“It’s been a heavy burden with six kids,” Anderson said. “We have a lot to do every day.”

So between work, parenthood, chemo and blood draws, Christmas decorations were an afterthought this year.

“The feeling of fatigue, I would say, is so deep,” Clark said.

Enter the Light and Ladder Brigade.

More than 60 firefighters in the area got on trucks and spent the next hour furnishing the house for free. They also helped and in many ways gave hope to this household and lightened the burden somewhat.

The group left the house radiant and the family radiant.

This was one of six houses the Lights and Ladders Brigade had set up on Friday on the south side of Chicago and some of the southern suburbs.

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The Lights and Ladders Brigade is a volunteer group and all decorations come from donations. It’s a collaboration between the charities Finley Forever Foundation, Christmas Without Cancer and The Tom Hopkins Foundation – all with the common goal of illuminating the lives of people battling cancer this holiday season.

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