As a Baldwin firefighter battles cancer, his community is rallying to help him pay his medical bills.
Michael Dolan, 28, was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, forcing him to take time off from his job as an engineer and his volunteer firefighting post with the Baldwin Fire Department.
Friends and fellow volunteer firefighters are leading an effort to raise money for him, including an online fundraiser and a fundraising drive scheduled for Saturday.
So far, the efforts have brought in more than $30,000 in donations.
“I’m lucky enough to have this amazing support structure,” Dolan said.
Dolan, who had always been interested in firefighting, joined the Baldwin Fire Department in 2011.
“It sounds corny, but you want to help your community and give back,” Dolan said. “It keeps life from getting boring.”
But in August, he started to have trouble breathing. Doctors initially told him it was pneumonia, but after several more trips to the doctor and emergency room visits, he learned it was something much worse: a cancerous mass in his lungs.
Dolan has been doing well between surgery, radiation, immunotherapy and chemotherapy treatments at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, he said.
But his family was worried about how the bills were going to get paid, said Dolan’s girlfriend, Anne Kenniff, 35, of Wantagh.
“I said, ‘That’s not something you should worry about right now,’ ” she added.
Kenniff set up a GoFundMe page on Aug. 31, hoping to coordinate a modest contribution for Dolan, but to her surprise, the page took off. It received nearly 1,000 shares on social media, and more than 400 people made donations that totaled more than $30,000 as of Friday.
Meanwhile, the Baldwin Fire Department has planned its own tribute. Dolan is a beloved member of his company, said Capt. James Carl.
“He’s a smart kid, never had a bad word to say about anyone, and then this happens to him,” Carl said.
The department will hold a fundraiser Saturday at Kitty O’Hara’s in Baldwin, from 2 to 6 p.m. Attendees who make a $20 donation will have a chance to participate in raffles and auctions of high-end goods and gift baskets.
Dolan said he is floored by the donations and support.
But he also worries about other firefighters, he said. He supports a new state law that will offer volunteer firefighters benefits for certain cancers like his, starting in 2019.
“I’m younger, people are going to see this 28-year-old with cancer,” he said. “But I’m always concerned, what about the girls and guys who don’t have that support structure?”