Updated: August 4, 2013 6:34AM
St. Charles firefighter-paramedic Don Fruland is usually the one rushing to help others. Now, friends are coming to his side.
“It’s not every day we get to help a hero,” longtime friend Eric Ward said.
Three months ago, Fruland, a 10-year veteran of the St. Charles Fire Department, was diagnosed with Stage IV nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a rare form of cancer that afflicts the throat and nasal passages.
On Sunday, the St. Charles Professional Firefighters Local 3322 will host the Don Fruland Benefit at the Kane County Sheriff’s Office Fraternal Order of Police Lodge, 42W635 Kedeka Road in Sugar Grove, to help the family in their time of recovery.
The family event will be held from 1 to 9 p.m. and feature food and refreshments, attractions for children and a live band. Tickets are $20 per person and $50 for a family.
Ward said there is the public side of Don who is the firefighter-paramedic and U.S. Navy veteran serving in the public’s eye to help others, but in his private life he is no lesser heroic.
Fruland, 43, resides in Yorkville with his wife Katy, and two sons, 10-year old Donny and David, 5.
He is a Sunday school teacher at Plano Christian Church and a martial arts instructor.
“Everything this family does is about serving. This is a chance for us to serve them and give back,” Ward said.
Ward said there has been significant progress in fighting the cancer with chemotherapy and family and friends are hopeful to get some really good news when Don finishes with radiation treatment.
“Many of the children he’s taught in Sunday school are now grown and gone on to be very successful. I had no idea how many lives he has touched through the years,” Ward said.
Fruland spoke Tuesday over the telephone, acknowledging the treatments have affected his voice. The Aurora Christian High School alum grew up in Aurora, and his original passion was to become a paramedic, but after training he got hooked on firefighting.
He was deployed on the USS Ranger (CVA-CV-61), known as the top gun of the Pacific fleet, from 1987 to 1991.
He admitted it is easier for him to be helping others, rather than being on the receiving end.
“One of the elders in our church, right when all of this started, told us it is one thing for Christians to serve as we have done in the past, but it is another thing to learn how to be served by other Christians because that helps them to learn how to serve,” Fruland said.
“It opened my eyes,” he said.
Fruland said there are people he has not seen in 20 years and friends from high school are driving in from St. Paul, Minn., for Sunday’s benefit.
St. Charles Fire Department Lt. Darin Peterson said he’s been on thousands of emergency medical and fire calls with Fruland over the years.
“Don is a top-notch paramedic and outstanding fireman. He’s an awesome person who will do anything for you,” Peterson said.
Donations can be sent to the St. Charles Professional Firefighters Local 3322, P.O. Box 25, St. Charles, IL 60174-0025, c/o Don and Katy Fruland. Online donations can be made through PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org.