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Teen firefighter gets wish granted, then rings cancer victory bell

Firefighters from all over the world showed their support for Tim Richardson as he fought, and won, the toughest battle of his young life: cancer.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — For more than a year, one teen from Cheektowaga has been inspiring fellow firefighters and fellow cancer fighters. Just last week, Timmy Richardson closed one chapter of his life and started another as he rang the cancer victory bell. 

Ringing the bell at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center signifies the end the hardest battle the young fireman might ever have to fight. 

"It signifies that I am cancer free," he said. 

Seventeen-year-old Tim Richardson was diagnosed with t-cell leukemia in February 2018 and a bone marrow transplant saved his life. 

Right after his diagnosis, he asked for fellow firefighters to send him t-shirts to help him get through the cancer battle, and he lost count after he received 4,000. They arrived from firefighters around the world.

"It kind got me up every day and pushed me to keep going every day. Every single day," said Tim.

The support didn't stop there. He received countless visits from firefighters from Cheektowaga, Buffalo and beyond, as well as inspiring messages of support from Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly and other cancer survivors. A fire truck parade welcomed Tim home from the hospital after his initial treatment. He received a bedroom makeover by Special Spaces. And just last week, his wish granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation of WNY to be an honorary New York City Firefighter for a day. 

"I got to hang out with those guys, take a couple calls with them. Just be me. Out of the hospital. I just had a great time," said Tim. 

He also spoke with the firefighters about their response and bravery on 9/11. Tim was born just two weeks after the terrorist attack.

"So it was on my bucket list to go and thank them," he said. "Hear stories from people who were right there when it happened and also to hang out with a different brotherhood." 

Wishes granted by Make-A-Wish have a lasting impact on the children who receive them.

"It's not just about joy, it's about hope. It's about healing. It's really about transforming their lives and making sure their lives are better because of the wish," said Kate Glaser, Senior Manager Marketing & Communications of Make-A-Wish WNY. 

T-shirts helped Tim on his journey and there was one more t-shirt worn by all at Tim's bell ringing celebration that sums it all up. 

"Our slogan on our back says 'no one fights alone' and we surely didn't fight this alone," said Tim's mother, Deana Richardson. 

"Everybody comes together for a common good. It's really exceptional to see that," said Matthew Richardson, Tim's father.

It's a lesson that will resonate with Tim for the rest of his life.

"No one's alone in any battle in life," he said. "Whether it's fighting fires or fighting the hardest battle in life—cancer—everyone's got someone there with them." 

Tim plans to now finish his senior year of high school. As for fighting, he advanced from being an Explorer to a Junior firefighter. When he turns 18-years-old in September, he can officially become a volunteer with the U-Crest Volunteer Fire Department in Cheektowaga, where his father and sister are currently volunteers.  

"It's gonna be great to have him sit next to me in a jumpseat, and put a pack on and do our jobs. It's going to be great. I can't wait," said Tim's dad. 

Tim believes he'll be a better firefighter because of his cancer journey. The support, love and kindness Tim received as a cancer patient are things he can pass along to patients he treats as a first responder. 

"I can say to them officially, 'I know what you're going through. You just gotta get through it. There's always a light at the end of the tunnel.'"

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