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SPOKANE VALLEY FIREFIGHTER, JOE SCHINDLER, TURNS HIS HEARTBREAK INTO SERVING OTHERS

Dec 30, 2019

WHEN A CHILD IS DIAGNOSED, A FAMILY IS DIAGNOSED…

Those are the words seen on the Anna Schindler Foundation website.

It all started in early 2010, when Firefighter Joe Schindler’s daughter had a side ache that did not go away.  After an ER visit and sent to Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, Anna Schindler was diagnosed with Stage IV liver cancer (Hepatoblastoma).  She was 6 years old.

Photo of Anna Schindler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Polly said, “When we first walked into the Sacred Heart Children’s Pediatric Oncology floor we saw a bulletin board of pictures of bald headed children.  My mind told me that Anna would not be on that wall.”

Denial was one of the first emotions the Schindler’s experienced.

“This could not be happening to us, this was something that happened on Saturday TV with the St. Jude’s commercials, not to people like us.”

The Schindlers did not get to hold onto that denial for very long.  The intensity of Anna’s cancer became very apparent very quickly.  Joe had to balance his job, family and now a critically ill child who was hospitalized. He hoped his time going forward would be spent with Anna and the family.

Joe’s firefighter family, Spokane Valley Fire, stepped up to relieve some of Joe and Polly’s burden.  The firefighters took Joe’s work shifts so he could be with Anna at the hospital.  They donated vacation time so he could be with his family during critical times.  Joe’s captain at the time put a team together and finished renovations of siding and window on his home that had been started shortly before Anna was diagnosed.  Firefighters have some of the most generous hearts as Joe’s family witnessed firsthand.

Little Anna was to undergo 10 rounds of intensive chemotherapy but only made it through four and a half rounds.  It was very hard on her little system.  She underwent surgery to remove 70% of her liver that contained a large tumor which showed she had two different cancers.  Five short months after diagnosis, her heart significantly damaged and her body tired from chemo and surgeries, Anna passed away. On Joe’s wrist is a tattoo of his hospital band.  He will never forget his little Anna who fought so hard and was so loved.

Dad's tattoo in honor of his little girlA dad's tattoo in memory of his little girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Anna’s funeral, she was buried to the SVFD Pipe and Drums “Amazing Grace” and many firefighters and staff attended in their Class A uniforms. The SVFD provided meals for the Schindlers during this very difficult time. With all the community outpouring of love they experienced during those long months of disbelief and helplessness, Joe and his wife Polly knew they would give back to the community who had helped them.

Prior to Anna’s passing, the Schindlers passed the room of a small boy about 4 years old on the oncology floor.  There was an older woman with him.  This little boy had the same doctor as Anna.  They learned he had the exact same diagnosis as Anna.  They also learned the woman who was with him was his foster parent.  It broke the Schindler’s heart to see someone so young suffering and without his family.  The Schindler’s inquired about him with social workers and found out he was up for adoption. Though they knew this diagnosis could be kill him, the Schindler family with Anna’s approval prior to her passing decided to adopt this little boy.  He went from being alone to being loved by six other brothers and sisters in a stable home.  This little boy is now 13, thriving and is considered cured from liver cancer.

Firefighter Joe Schindler and his family

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Due to their personal experience of having a child with cancer, they understood what a family going through childhood cancer treatment experiences.  Families suffer income loss, being displaced from home while their child receives treatment, increased expenses in addition to regular living expenses.  This emotional and financial stress is tremendously hard on a family.   The Schindler family wanted to help, for this very reason they started the Anna Schindler Foundation in honor of Anna.  The Anna Schindler Foundation (ASF) was formed in early 2011 shortly after Anna’s passing.  The ASF serves all families with a child diagnosed with pediatric cancer in the Inland Northwest by assisting with the financial needs that occur as a result of a diagnosis of cancer.

In addition to supporting families financially, the ASF purchased land on Spokane’s South Hill with the intention of building temporary homes for families from outlying areas. When a child is going through intensive treatment and home is not a medically safe distance from the hospital, Anna’s Homes provide a place of refuge and a haven of hope where families can be together. With community support the first two homes (Anna’s Homes) were built and finished in November of 2018. Anna’s Homes were created specifically for families going through childhood cancer treatment. The Anna Schindler Foundation works to advocate for these families during their crisis to provide a warm and safe home away from home.  A night’s stay costs only $35.00 and is paid through the family’s insurance or donations that cover these nights for families that cannot afford it.  The average stay for a family is 60 days.  Since November 2018, 12 families have benefitted from Anna’s Homes.

In the United States, 43 children are diagnosed with cancer daily. Cancer remains to be the number one cause for death by disease in America. In 2017, 44 families heard the words “your child has cancer” in the Inland Northwest. As a community, we can spread awareness and make a difference.

SVFD employees support this Foundation through volunteer payroll deductions.  Donations can also be made by visiting the Anna Schindler Foundation.

One of the houses built by the Anna Schindler Foundation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you Know?

 

  • You should replace the batteries in your smoke alarms twice a year.
  • Creating a defensible space with regards to wildfires could just save your home or property.

Media Contact

  • Julie Happy
  • 509-892-4155

Commissioner Patrick Burch

Board Member Since: July 18, 2016
Current term expires: December 31, 2025

Commissioner Burch was appointed to the Board of Fire Commissioners in July 2016 to fill an unexpired term and has served continuously since that time. Commissioner Burch is co-owner and Business Manager of Neurotherapy Northwest. He became a volunteer member of the Department’s CERT Team in 2008 and later served as a team leader/member of Fire Corps.

“I admire the Spokane Valley Fire Department’s focus on continuous improvement. Our dedication to the community, fiscal responsibility and the fact that we are one of the few accredited fire departments in the State of Washington all make SVFD great!”

Note: As the individual appointed to this non-partisan position, Commissioner Burch was elected by voters in November 2017.

Commissioner Mike Kester

Board Member Since: January 1, 2020
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2025

Commissioner Mike Kester was elected to the Board of Fire Commissioners in November, 2019.

Commissioner Kester grew up in the Spokane area and has a deep appreciation for just how fortunate we all are to live in this beautiful area. He believes that being involved in this community is not something to take lightly.

His background includes joining the United States Coast Guard (U.S.C.G) after high school and serving on a port firefighting boat doing search and rescue in Portland, Oregon.  After the Coast Guard, he attended the University of Montana earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Resource Management.  He then went on to work for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, serving in their Parks Department.

Spokane was the next step in his career. He  went to work for the Burlington Santa Fe Railroad and the next 22 years was spent as a conductor moving freight. Commissioner Kester  retired in 2010 after a workplace injury and now,  he and his wife enjoy making meals for World War II Veterans, helping out at the YMCA ,and providing meals for those in need.

“In the 25 years of being a resident of the Spokane Valley the professionalism of the SVFD has inspired me to take an active part in bettering our community. We have one of the best fire departments in the whole Pacific Northwest. My wife and I have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. I have dedicated my life to keeping them safe.  I want to apply that dedication to our community.  Keeping us all safe is a goal we should all aspire to in one way or another. Communication within the department and with the public is, and always will be one of my primary goals.”

Commissioner John Guarisco

Board Member since: August 27, 2018
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2027

Commissioner Guarisco was appointed to the Board of Fire Commissioners in August 2018 to fill an unexpired term and has served continuously since that time. Commissioner Guarisco founded Marjoni Marketing in 2004 and in 2010 merged with MDI marketing. He then pursued Real Estate, earning his license and now, currently serves the greater Spokane area as a licensed Realtor. He has long been active in the community and has won numerous awards during his career including the Volunteer of the Year (2014) and the Community Caring Award (2010) from the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.  He is a member of the Greater Spokane Valley Rotary Club and holds an AA degree from Spokane Falls Community College.

Note: As the individual appointed to this non-partisan position, Commissioner Guarisco was elected by voters in November 2019.

Commissioner Bill Anderson

Board Member since: January 1, 2000
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2023

Commissioner Anderson served our community as a Spokane Valley Fire Department firefighter for 29 years. Throughout his career, he worked as a firefighter, dispatcher and engineer before he was promoted and became an officer. He was Station Captain of Millwood Station 2 when he retired in 1999. During his years as firefighter, he was an active leader of Spokane Valley Firefighters Local 876 and served as a trustee on the Washington State Council of Firefighters for 25 years.

“It’s important to me that we continue the good service we’ve always given the people. We’ve accomplished a lot and are pulling in the same direction to get better. I’m very proud of the Spokane Valley Fire Department.”

Commissioner Brian Asmus

Board Member Since: June 14, 2021
Current term expires: 

Commissioner Brian Asmus was appointed to the Spokane Valley Fire Department Board of Fire Commissioners in 2021.

Commissioner Asmus is the former Liberty Lake Police Chief and current Director of Safety and Security at Central Valley School District (CVSD).

“Brian Asmus brings extensive Public Safety leadership experience, and a long history of being actively engaged in his community to his new role as a SVFD Commissioner,” said SVFD Fire Chief, Bryan Collins. “During his time as a Police Chief, Brian interacted with SVFD firefighters and administrators on a regular basis, making him very familiar with our structure, standing within our communities, as well as with many of our current SVFD board members and personnel. Brian’s experience working and collaborating on regional issues aligns nicely with SVFD’s philosophy and will help us continue to be a catalyst for local and regional excellence and innovation.”

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