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Dani Ranger Memorial Firefighter Scholarship started
Dani's impact with jr. firefighters
DIXFIELD -- A memorial scholarship effort is underway in the name of Dani Ranger, who was a junior firefighter for the Dixfield Fire Company and was a member of the Western Foothills Junior Firefighter Program.
Ranger, 16, who was a junior at Dirigo, died last Oct. 15 following a car crash in Peru.
The Dani Ranger Memorial Firefighter Scholarship is to provide money for further education of graduating students of Dirigo High School that are active members of the volunteer fire departments of Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru.
These are the four volunteer departments that service these communities.
There is no GPA average to maintain and applications are available at the guidance office at DHS. The fund will annually have $1,000 available for one or multiple recipients. The scholarship panel consists of the four chiefs: William Hussey, Scott Dennett, Kenneth Flagg and Shane Gallant, as well as Dirigo High School Principal Michael Poulin, and Winderosa General Manager Lolisa Windover.
The current Junior Firefighter Program leader, Jason Hyde, who was a cousin to Dani, is serving an advisory member.
Windover explained how the scholarship idea started.
"Growing up in Dixfield, then living in Canton and now Peru, because of the closeness of our community and our school, you develop a great appreciation for the endless hours that our volunteer fire and rescue men and women give. They help all of us."
"The idea of a scholarship had been floating for a while and then one fateful weekend it hit me. Saturday night, October 15th, after dropping off some extra teens from a movie, I tried to turn on Ridge Road. Myriah Porter was there in full volunteer uniform putting up a road block. She looked very upset. I knew it was bad by all the lights I could see. I asked a neighbor who was stopped as well what had happened and they told me; it was Dani and it was bad," said Windover.
"Dani is in my daughter Kate's class and was best friends with Kait Langervin, who is a dear friend of the family. Dani was also one of the true forces on our field hockey team and Kate worked hard with her on the team. Calls throughout the night and then we went to CMMC to sit with Kait L., her mother, Nina and some of the others," she said.
"To see the outspilling of emotions and the presence of so many of the firefighters, juniors and adults combined, was more than touching. It was incredible. Dani was one of them and they were losing a member of there family. I will never forget that weekend," said Windover.
A few days later she started making phone calls and asking how to start a scholarship fund and the guidance office and DHS helped with the wording. She said she also received assistance from Chief William (Bill) Hussey of Peru in getting a plan together to start this scholarship.
"Originally it was just going to be a private scholarship, I did not want to ask anyone for money."
Windover said Winderosa is planning to fund it for $1,000 annually. "Since then, I was asked by a few others including, Jen Whittemore and Ken Lebrecque, if they could add to the fund by different fundraisers. I then got a tax number and have it set up officially. We have had one meeting of the scholarship panel and we have a great group in place to work with."
As advised by the high school, they are going to announce the recipients at the Senior Banquet and the fire chief from the town the student volunteers in will have the honor of presenting it.
Then in December, a check will be given to the school and DHS will write a check to the students when they bring their bill for second semester to a college, trade school or other form of continuing education that is approved by the panel.
There are some fundraisers ongoing to add to the $1,000 available annually. One is the key chain bracelets available from Jenn Whittemore of the Class of 2013, who would have sat in the DHS gym next year with Dani in their graduation ceremony.
Donations can be made to the Dani Ranger Memorial Scholarship, P.O. Box 350, Peru, ME 04290. They should be marked if they wish to remain anonymous.
Windover noted that the junior firefighter program is an exciting and engaging program where kids learn not only fire and rescue training, but life skills that they will carry with them the rest of their lives. "We are so fortunate to have this program and to have the amazing young people in our communities that devote so much time and energy."
Lauren Calden is a jr. firefighter for the Dixfield Fire Co.
"I joined the department a few months after Dani. I've been on for almost two years. What means the most to me is that we are kinda like a family. I always knew as far as back that I can remember that I wanted to do something around this field. Either firefighting, being a nurse, or being a paramedic, something along those lines."
"Pretty much everyone on the fire department are close, not by relation or anything like that, but by knowing each other and going through so much with one another. After Dani's death, I realized how close everyone was. I never really noticed it before then, because I wasn't on long enough to experience alot of the things that firefighters went through and saw," she said.
"When I think about the scholarship in Dani's rememberence, I think of somebody who is already a junior firefighter and knows that that's the career path that they would like to go on, a career that has to do with helping the community and helping others," said Calden.
"Even though I would love to go to school to be a firefighter and become a fulltime one, I am aiming more toward going to school for paramedicine. I really want to be a paramedic. I will definately always have something to do with being a firefighter and the fire department though!" she noted.
Hyde, the coordinator of the program, said,
"To this day the juniors mention her (Dani) during every training. She is constantly with us at the station in some shape or form. I look at Hannah (Dorion) as the first person Dani truly recruited. Lauren Calden was the first that joined after Dani, and Dani was a huge reason she came on."
When Dani joined in October of 2010, they had one other junior firefighter between the Dixfield and Peru fire departments. By February of 2011, they had nine juniors in all, and had created the program now called the Western Foothills Junior Firefighter Program.
"We needed to develop bylaws for the program. Dani helped me with this, giving me constant input of what she thought of each rule from a junior’s point of view," said Hyde.
The program now has 14 members and is growing, with three interviews scheduled for the next couple of weeks.
Dixfield Fire Co. Chief Scott Dennett, a firefighter for 25 years with the department come September, noted that when he started, the number of firefighters available was in the mid-thirties. Today, he's seen that number dwindle to the mid-teens.
For various reasons, that trend resulting in a lack of manpower is now a common factor in most fire departments. With so many regulations and required training, the time involved makes it like a second job, which is very difficult for people working fulltime to support a family.
Dennett said the jr. firefighters meet once a month, although in a given month, they might take part in two or three trainings. Until a jr. firefighter turns 18, he said they can't be "in a red zone" of working fires, but they assist adult firefighters through duties such as changing air bottles, retrieving tool, taking care of fire hose, etc.
Before the resurgence in the past few years of the jr. firefighting program, the department had a jr. firefighting program in last 1990's. One of those in that program was Scott's son, Ryan, who has since gone on to become a regular firefighter in southern Maine.
Dennett said having a scholarship for jr. firefighters will certainly help encourage those who are planning to move on to higher education to make this their chosen field.
He noted that if added resources are made to the scholarship, perhaps more students can benefit.
But, regardless of whether or not a jr. firefighter becomes a fulltime firefighter, the program provides the instruction to learn lifelong skills with the hope that in the future, a young man or woman will volunteer to help the fire department in their community.
Hyde noted, "I look at how we have grown and the great youngsters we have, and realize none of this would have been possible without her (Dani's) vision. I told this to the juniors on Facebook the other day but I truly thought when Dani died, the program would die with it."
"How wrong I was. Who knew I could learn so much from these kids? I have taught them firefighting; they have taught me how to grow. Each one had their own personality, but together they are a well oiled machine that I would trust with my life. I know Dani is looking down upon us, proud as ever of what she helped create," he said.