Matt Webb collects donations for fellow firefighter Belio Rendon Sr. and his family Friday on Sampson Street in Westlake. (Michelle Higginbotham / American Press)
Last Modified: Sunday, October 07, 2012 7:56 PM
The Westlake Fire Department is banding together to help one of its own.
Firefighter Belio Rendon’s 2-year-old son, Belio “Bear” Rendon Jr., was recently diagnosed with retinoblastoma — cancer in the retina — in both eyes, and is being treated at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
Capt. Tommy Buckner said Bear has already lost one eye and is undergoing chemotherapy in his other, where he has two tumors.
“This family is facing a lot of challenges,” Buckner said. “Belio’s wife, Debbie, is nine months pregnant right now, too, and is due at any minute.”
Buckner said the Rendons also recently bought their first house before Bear was diagnosed and while the family was on their way to Memphis, Debbie’s sister got into a car accident in which she was badly injured.
“They just keep getting these challenges thrown at them and they’re staying strong for their children,” he said. “Our mindset is to stand strong behind them and for them to help with expenses as much as possible and anything we can to assist them.”
Fire department personnel stood at the intersection of Sampson Street and McKinley Street Friday and Isle of Capri Boulevard and Miller Avenue collecting money in boots to help the family offset costs.
Firefighter Melissa Bowles, Belio Rendon’s partner, said they’re “like family” to her.
“I work with him all the time; we’re pretty close,” she said. “I would stand out here all day long for him if I had to. I was more than ready to jump on board with this.”
Bowles said what immediately comes to her mind when asked to describe Belio is “good guy.”
“He really is just a genuine, good guy,” she said. “He would do anything for anyone and he’s a hard worker.”
Buckner said the department has done a boot drive for other charities over the years, but this is the first time they have done one for one of their firefighters.
“This one is really special to us,” he said, “because Belio is one of our own.”
Buckner said he’s hoping they raise a “few thousand” dollars through the drive.
Firefighter Ryan Qualls said he wanted to be a part of the drive because the department is “like a big family.”
“Anytime that any one of us needs anything no one has any problem donating their time or doing whatever they can to take care of them,” he said. “We all have each other’s backs and help each other out.”
Qualls said the community has been receptive to the drive.
“The response has been really great,” he said. “When people ask us what this is for and we tell them, they start donating more.”