WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Braeden Gilbert is a fighter. After all, he's just 7 years old and has to endure things like chemotherapy and IV treatments and spinal taps to fight the acute lymphocytic leukemia he was diagnosed with two years ago.
Braeden Gilbert is 7 years old and was born on April 17, 2002. Braeden was diagnosed with T-Cell ALL (Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia) on April 4, 2007. His treatment plan consists of chemo therapy treatments, spinal taps, bone marrow aspirations and routine blood draws. He currently is in remission and will continue this therapy for the next 3 years. Braeden is a very energetic 1st grader who loves riding his bike and learning new tricks. He enjoys playing four square, video games (he rocks out to Guitar Hero) and doing arts and crafts. He loves to go to the lake where he enjoys riding on boats and jet skis, fishing, swimming, camping and roasting marshmallows over the campfire. Braeden's dad, Jonathan Gilbert is a car salesman at Easy Credit Auto Sales. Braeden's mom, Brandie Lassiter, is a Sr. Financial Services Representative with Commerce Bank. Braeden says he wants to be a firefighter when he grows up.
Information from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
So perhaps it's no surprise that Braeden, a first-grader, aspires to be a firefighter.
"You can rescue people," he said.
On Friday, his seventh birthday, Braeden was treated to a surprise when a group of local firefighters, friends and family members helped him live out his firefighter dream.
Braeden spent much of the day hanging out _ but also working _ with firefighters from Sedgwick County Fire Station No. 32, near 77th North and I-135.
"I love it," Braeden said.
The event was the culmination of several weeks of work.
It began when Clyde Berg, a firefighter at Station No. 32, read about Braeden being named the local Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's 2009 "Little Boy of the Year."
In his profile, Braeden said he wanted to be a firefighter when he grew up.
Berg was moved by the story and wanted to do something.
"I knew I could do this with the guys I work with," he said.
So firefighters and others worked with Braeden's mother to make him a firefighter for the day _ a surprise for his birthday.
"It's been killing me not being able to tell him," said his mother, Brandie.
Braeden didn't know anything about what was happening until Friday morning at his school, Griffith Elementary.
During an assembly by the Sedgwick County firefighters on fire safety, it was announced that Friday was Braeden's birthday. He came forward and was told he would spend the day with the fire crew.
He and his mother hopped on a fire engine, where they traveled to the fire station. There, Braeden was presented with several gifts _ including protective firefighting gear from helmet to boots. His fire coat even had his name in reflective lettering on the back.
Berg had said that Braeden was going to be "treated like one of the other brothers here."
That was clear when Berg and others referred to him as "rookie" and made Braeden help prepare lunch.
In the afternoon, Braeden got to help fight a fire. Firefighters went to a department training site, where a fire was set in a large metal storage container. Braeden then held a hose to help put out the fire.
His mother was certain the day would be a boost to Braeden.
"He has had a real rough year," she said of Braeden, whose disease currently is in remission. "Since the beginning of the year, he's fought one thing after another.
"So yeah, this will help him a lot."
Braeden was excited about the opportunity _ and of course the gifts, including a real firefighter's badge and his fire gear.
"I might set it up in my room," he said of his gear, "so it'll be a firefighter room now."
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This is a tragic, yet inspirational story. Wichita Fire has shown the true colors of Emergency Services. This hits home with me, because I'm a leukemia (AML) survivor myself. I've gone through all those treatments and they can be rough to deal with; but a road you have to travel down to survive. And I'm an adult! My hats' off to Braeden for his toughness and determination. Lets hope this young rookie's dream does turn into a career. When I was 6 years old a tornado tried to suck me out of my upstairs bedroom, and then 4 years later; working on some rocket fuel for my 1st homemade rocket; I blew myself off the back patio into a fence and started the back of the house on fire. The Waukegan fire chief lived next to us, ran over and hosed down myself and the house. Then he put his huge, heavy white chief's helmet on me and said some day I'll be a firefighter, if I don't burn down the neighborhood. I did, and the neighborhood's still there! Destiny I guess?