PATERSON, NJ - When Kerry Rivera passed away earlier this year following an off-duty accident his brothers and sisters in the Paterson Fire Department immediately launched an efforts to provide whatever support they could to Rivera’s surviving wife and three children.

“In firefighting, perhaps more than in any other profession, the men and women we serve alongside truly are family,” said Jerry Behnke, President of Paterson FMBA Local 2, the union Rivera belonged to. “When we lost Kerry we lost a brother, and even in death he is still family.” That sense of family, Behnke continued, extends beyond the firehouse. 

As part of their ongoing to support to the Rivera family, Paterson Firefighter, and Avon Representative, Beth Fournier is leading a local effort to raise funds that will be split between his three children “to help with educational expenses and activities,” by selling stuffed animals. “Rory the Lion” is available for just $20. 

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This is the fifth year Fournier has organized the sale of stuffed animals, with funds raised in previous years going towards other causes she selected based on “the ability to make an impact in the lives of those that need it most.” In 2015, the efforts helped cover costs associated with the medical expenses of fellow firefighter Michael Caposolla’s granddaughter who needed a full heart transplant just months after her birth. 

In addition to the funds raised, many who contribute choose to also donate the stuffed animal. The stuffed animals that are purchased and donated back are then given to local children through the Paterson FMBA’s annual toy drive, local shelters, as well as to young patients spending Christmas at St. Joseph’s Medical Center.

Asked why she has taken this on year after year Fournier said “we became firefighters to help our community. For many of us that doesn’t end when we take off our uniforms.”  

For more information, to purchase your own ‘”Rory the Lion”, or to make a donation email Beth Fournier.