SALEM — Not everyone is willing to have their head shaved. But when it’s for a good friend and respected colleague, they will do almost anything.
That’s why 54 members of the Salem Fire Department stepped up and cut their hair in support of Capt. Steve McKenna, a 10-year member of the department.
McKenna, 53, is fighting for his life after intestinal cancer spread throughout much of his body, including his liver and lungs.
The married father of two has battled the disease for four years, but said yesterday he’s only been given months to live. He went on medical leave in February, but has remained in close contact with his firefighting brethren while resting at his home in Westmoreland.
The support McKenna received has been overwhelming, he said. His fellow firefighters have been sending him photos of their shaved heads. They are also organizing fundraisers.
“It’s just the brotherhood — I would be doing it myself if the shoe was on the other foot,” he said. “I’m not ashamed to say I had tears running down my cheeks. It means a lot.”
McKenna, who has endured numerous rounds of chemotherapy, said he’s been feeling well, but is recuperating from his third liver infection. Completing even the simplest of tasks can be tough, he said.
“It’s been kind of a rocky road,” he said. “There are good days and bad.”
Fire Chief Kevin Breen said the show of support from his 73-member department has been impressive.
Breen said he was only going to get a buzz cut, but had his entire head shaved after Assistant Fire Chief Paul Parisi did the same.
“It’s for a good cause and, obviously, we’re all thinking of Steve,” Breen said.
Breen said McKenna is a popular, experienced and well-respected member of the department. He also has served as a New Hampshire Fire Academy instructor.
Firefighter Chris Geras is among those helping with fundraisers. A celebration honoring McKenna will be held June 29 at the Radisson Hotel/Center of New Hampshire in Manchester. Tickets are $20.
Geras is selling T-shirts that proclaim firefighters’ support of McKenna, also for $20, to help the family with medical expenses. McKenna and his wife, Nancy, have two sons, Douglas, 22, and Dan, 19.
“In the fire service, everyone pulls together when someone is in need of help,” Geras said.
McKenna is a strong leader, he said.
“He’s always been that type of guy you fall back on,” Geras said.
McKenna, a Salem native, began his 21-year firefighting career in Goffstown and Keene before returning to his hometown in 2003.
He wishes he could return to work, but knows his declining health has made it impossible.
“I would give anything to go back to work,” he said. “I loved doing what I do.”
To obtain a T-shirt, call Geras at 475-4680, Phil MacCallum at 490-1118 or emailfirefighter Fran Enos at Fenos143@gmail.com.
For more information about the celebration, contact Ryan Gott at 603-540-6917.