The sequence of events that led up to East Peoria, IL Local 1498 member Greg Underhill, recently diagnosed with ALS, receiving a van customized for a wheel chair can all be linked to one thing: the comradery among IAFF members.

It all began with a Facebook message from a member of Monroe Township, NJ Local 3170 to the members of Hackensack, NJ Local 2081 asking if they could help an ALS advocate deboard his plane when he arrived at Teterboro Airport.

“Without knowing much, I told them to let me know when to have our members there,” recalls Local 2081 President Mike Shiner.

Shiner soon found out that the person needing assistance was former New Orleans Saints football player Steve Gleason who was flying in to speak about the benefit of speech technology to ALS patients at Microsoft’s Ad Week presentation.

After being diagnosed with ALS in 2011, he started a charitable foundation called Team Gleason which raises awareness and dollars to assist other ALS patients.

As fate or luck would have it, two days after Hackensack Local 2081 members assisted Gleason, Shiner received a letter from East Peoria, IL Local 1498 President Robert Zimmerman about his member, Greg Underhill, a 20-year veteran fire fighter who had been diagnosed with ALS and is now using a wheelchair.

“We had already done some fundraising for a wheel accessible van, but just needed a little more to reach our goal,” says President Zimmerman.

Using his newfound contacts with Team Gleason, Shiner facilitated the connection between Team Gleason and Local 1498. The charity got in touch with Local 1498 right away and awarded two grants equaling the amount the local needed to pay for the van.

“Our members cannot express how thankful we are for the assistance we received from Local 2081 and Team Gleason,” says Zimmerman.

Local 1498 has already presented Underhill with the van, and he can now leave his home with greater ease.