It's been two months since Lindale firefighter Joe Yeakley was critically injured battling a house fire, but the community and local firefighters have not forgotten his needs.
Yeakley, 52, a 14-year veteran firefighter, was rescued from a burning home in Lindale in January. An early morning fire destroyed the house, and the roof over the garage collapsed, fire officials said.
Yeakley was severely burned, faced a long road to full recovery and was flown to Parkland Hospital in Dallas.
Lindale Fire Department spokesman Lt. Aaron Munn, said Yeakley has made a lot of improvements. He said all of Yeakley's skin graft surgeries are complete. He can stand up and move between his bed and chair, and doctors have experimented with taking him off of his ventilator machine.
The family set up a public Facebook page "Fighting for Joe" to update the community on Yeakley's progress.
There have been more than 10 fundraisers for the firefighter's family, including barbeque benefits, restaurant fundraisers, fill-the-helmet drives, a benefit concert and a 5K, and more are planned.
"Our plan is to have at least one fundraiser every other month until Joe gets back to somewhat of a normal life," Munn said. "It's going to take a couple years before he's fully recovered, but (until) he gets back home and back to work, we want to make sure his bills are completely taken care of."
The next fundraiser will be at the Lindale IHOP, 3408 S. Main St., on March 25. Twenty percent of sales from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. will go to the family Munn said. There will also be fun activities in the parking lot.
The Mineola Fire Department will host a co-ed ragball softball tournament on April 5. The event will be at the Mineola Youth Foundation, 6045 Farm-to-Market Road 1254. The entry fee is $200 per team, and event T-shirts and concessions are expected to be sold, said Mineola Fire Chief David Madsen. The deadline to register is March 31.
Madsen said the Mineola department challenged the Lindale firefighters to competitive softball game during the tournament. He said it would be a rematch after the Lindale beat them in a fundraiser football game in 2001, which benefited the victims of 9/11.
"We are hoping that no one forgets him," Madsen said, adding Yeakley was a friend to many in the department. "I think the fact that it's three months later keeps him in everybody's thoughts."
Munn said departments across the state and nation have also come to Joe's aid, sending checks and firefighter patches.
"It really is a giant family — one big dysfunctional family" Munn said. "It's been national, not just local comradely. It's a family nationwide and guys have stepped up all over the place to help out."
Munn said the department is making its fourth order of T-shirts. He said the women's auxiliary is taking pre-orders for the next batch. They cost $20 each or $50 for three. Contact Angela Green at 903-920-4679 for more information.
Rubber bracelets are also sold through the Dixie Fire Department or at the Lindale Floral Shop, 110 W. South St., and donations can be made anytime in a benefit bank account at Texas Bank and Trust.
The latest benefits and fundraisers are posted on the Lindale Fire Department's Facebook page.
For more information on the event or to volunteer to help, contact firefighter Doug Coffman at 903-352-8639 or Madsen at 903-312-7660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.