The Story of the Little Firefighter – Frank “Bopsy” Salazar


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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As his mother, it was very meaningful to me that people who didn’t know us stepped forward to be in Bopsy’s life.” – Octaviana Trujillo, Mother of Frank “Bopsy” Salazar

Note: This story is in circulation through emails since February 2001. In most of the versions the boy is fictitiously named “Billy” instead of using his real name – Frank “Bopsy” Salazar. This story is relatively true. 

Octaviana Trujillo, 26, sadly stared down at her 7-year-old dying son. Like all mothers, Octaviana too wanted her son to grow up and fulfill all his dreams. But leukemia would not allow him to live long enough.

In 1981, in Phoenix, Arizona, doctors diagnosed Frank “Bopsy” Salazar as having terminal leukemia.

Octaviana clasped her son’s hand and asked, “Bopsy, did you ever think about what you wanted to be once you grew up? Did you ever dream and wish what you would do with your life?”

Bopsy replied, “Mommy, I want to be a firefighter; I want to go up in a balloon; and I want to go to Disneyland. “

She smiled back and said, “Let’s see if we can make your wish come true.”

Later that day, she went to her local fire Department in Phoenix. She explained her son’s last wish and asked if it might be possible to give her little son a ride around the block on a fire engine.

The Chief said, “Madam, we can do better than that. We’ll make him an honorary Fireman for the day. He can come down to the fire station, eat with us, go out on all the fire calls, the whole nine yards!”

The Chief’s reply enthralled Octaviana.

The Fire Chief decided that the Phoenix Fire Department should make sure the dying boy had an experience truly befitting a fireman.

“And if you’ll give us his sizes, we’ll get a real fire uniform for him,” the Chief added.

The first wish-granting team started with the Phoenix Fire Department.

A full uniform, complete with a yellow coat and a helmet, was custom-made for him.

A few days later the Fire Chief picked up Bopsy, dressed him in his uniform, and escorted him from the hospital to the waiting hook and ladder truck.

The 7-year-old  got into the truck. He was in heaven. Bopsy scrambled around the back of Engine 9’s ladder truck, turned on the horn.

The boy went out with the firefighters. He rode in different fire engines, the Paramedic’s van, and even the fire chief’s car; and he doused a few cars with water from a 75-pound hose.

At the end of the day the Phoenix Fire Department made Bopsy the first honorary fireman in Phoenix history and pinned him an official firefighter’s badge.

There was more to come. Media coverage of Bopsy’s first wish made others want to help, and more offers came in from people eager to lift the little boy’s spirits.

Hot-air balloon pilots and owners Chris and Bob Pearce took Bopsy on an unforgettable ride in their balloon that gave him a bird’s-eye view of Phoenix.

Next, the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim created a special day complete with private tours, meals, gifts and more just for Bopsy. In Anaheim, they treated him with every courtesy a visiting fireman could wish for from his Southern California colleagues. They chauffeured him to and from the Los Angeles airport in a fire truck, and two of his fellow firefighters from the Anaheim Fire Department escorted him around the park.

Having his dream come true, with all the love and attention that was lavished upon him, Bopsy lived three months longer than the doctors thought possible.

One night, after Bopsy returned to the hospital after his trip to Disneyland, he became critically ill. The head nurse, who believed in the hospice concept – that no one should die alone, began to call the family members to the hospital.

Remembering the day Bopsy had spent as a Fireman, she called the Fire Chief and asked if it would be possible to send a fireman in uniform to the hospital to be with Bopsy as he made his transition.

The Chief replied, “We can do better than that. We’ll be there in five minutes. Will you please do us a favor?”

The nurse said, “Sure. What do you want me to do?”

The Chief said, “Please keep the window to his room open.”

Five minutes later a hook and ladder truck arrived at the hospital and extended its ladder up to Bopsy’s third floor open window. Five of his fellow Phoenix firefighters climbed through using the ladder. Bopsy shared a few laughs with his friends.

Before going back to sleep Bopsy looked up at the Fire Chief and asked, “Chief, am I really a fireman now?”

“Yes. You are,” the Chief said.

Later that evening, Bopsy passed away peacefully with his fondest wishes coming true.

Frank “Bopsy” Salazar – Make-A-Wish Foundation’s first OFFICIAL wish kid.

Photo of Wishchild

Getting a handle
on firefighting

Photo of Wishchild

Soaring over
Phoenix

Photo of Wishchild

Getting goofy at
Disneyland

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