STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A 12 year old Prince’s Bay boy with a rare disease was “feeling lucky” on Thursday when he got the opportunity to ride in a FDNY fire truck on Phelan-McDermid syndrome Awareness Day in New York.
Donning a “Phelan Lucky,” sweatshirt, Drew Denmark, a student at P37R in Great Kills, who suffers from Phelan-McDermid syndrome — a rare genetic condition caused by the deletion of chromosome 22 or the mutation of the SHANK3 gene — and autism, was the focus of the event.
Over the years, his mother, Debra Denmark, has organized many events to raise money for the Phelan-McDermid Syndrome Foundation.
And last year, after talks with local politicians, Denmark championed Gov. Andrew Cuomo officially proclaiming Oct. 22 Phelan-McDermid syndrome (PMs) Awareness Day in New York. The foundation chose the 22nd day because it represents the deletion in the 22nd chromosome, which causes the rare condition, she said.
To mark the year anniversary of the proclamation, SQUAD 8 in Travis — where Drew’s cousin, firefighter Brian Mitchell works — hosted a fun-filled event for family and friends.
“Drew’s favorite thing is riding in the car. We have a lot of firefighters in our family and he loves the big red firetrucks, and until today he never sat or rode in one,” said his mother.
“Our cousin, firefighter Brian Mitchell, from SQUAD 8, offered the idea of visiting the firehouse to help raise awareness and allow drew and friends the opportunity to explore the firehouse, and we were thrilled. It was so much fun for him and the kids. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend Phelan-McDermid syndrome Awareness Day. Drew absolutely loved it.”
Said Mitchell: “On behalf of Squad 8, we were happy to open up the house for a good cause. Drew is a very special kid and he couldn’t have a better mother making sure he has every opportunity possible to be the best he can be. It was our pleasure to help Debra create awareness as she tries so very hard to make a difference in her son’s life. And we were happy to spend the day making him smile.”
Mitchell was joined at the firehouse by many Squad 8 firefighters, including Kevin Erkman, Eric Dini, Jason Speiser, John Thompson, Joseph Schafer and Captain Thomas Gardner.