Celebrating a Year of Resilience: A Look Back at Family Programs in 2018

Taking stock in what we do

Early in the year, the Foundation hired an outside contractor to conduct a comprehensive and impartial assessment to determine how well we are meeting the needs of the community we serve. Based on the research, we were proud to learn that families felt we live up to our mission and provide much-needed assistance. Thank you to all who participated in this important effort by responding to questionnaires, completing interviews, and participating in focus groups. Because the data is blinded, we don’t know who participated, but we appreciate your honesty, validation, and thoughtful critique of our programs. This data will help inform and improve our programs.


The 2018 Fire Hero Family Wellness Conference in Ohio drew 60 participants. Workshops focused on proactive approaches to help navigate the grieving process and offered strategies that can be incorporated into daily life. Some Fire Hero Family members also were trained in our Peer Support Network which helped prepare them to make direct contact with recently bereaved family members and others who may request peer support.

Hal Bruno Camp for Children of Fallen Firefighters

We hosted a training for camp volunteers (Big Buddies, Nurses, Support Staff) for the 2018 Hal Bruno Camp. Camp volunteers must participate in this Comfort Zone Camp six-hour course to become eligible to be matched with a camper for this valuable NFFF program.

Forty-four campers, ages 4-17, attended the camp in New Jersey. In addition to traditional camp fun, everyone shared their stories of loss and its impact on their lives. They built connections and self-confidence, learned coping skills, and processed their own grief. Campers let us know the best part of camp is feeling like they are a part of a community, making lasting friendships, and learning coping skills.

Young Adults

The Young Adult Retreat in Virginia focused on the effects of the early death of a parent or sibling. The retreat provided tools and strategies to help develop lifelong resiliency, with some helpful life hacks for coping and learning to be your own best friend.

New Program for Spouses and Life Partners

Family Programs

Michele Neff Hernandez and Dr. Carrie West, of the Soaring Spirits Resilience Center, developed a new program for our first ever Spouses and Life Partners Retreat. Thirty attendees participated in this personalized weekend in Maryland to help spouses and life partners integrate their past life with their present, strengthen their sense of self, and develop goals for living a resilient life.


With the help of our scholarship partner organizations, we awarded over $338,000 in scholarships to 80 qualified applicants towards their continued education. Two of these recipients received full scholarships.

Annual Tree Lighting

We were happy to have over 150 attendees at the 2018 Fire Hero Family Tree Lighting in the chapel in Emmitsburg, a program to honor and remember all firefighters during the holidays!

These are just a few of the highlights from 2018. Thank you to all who attended programs and events, volunteered at the Memorial Weekend, represented the NFFF, wrote articles for The Journey, sent Remembrance Cards, reached out to other families, sent holiday ornaments, raised and donated money, and participated in other ways throughout the year. You helped make 2018 a year of healing, connection, and resilience.

Please continue to take care of yourselves.
We hope to see you at one of our upcoming 2019 programs.


2019 Hal Bruno Camps for Children of Fallen Firefighters
Two Locations Near Martinsville, IN – Bloomington, IN
June 28, 2019 – June 30, 2019

2019 Young Adults Retreat
Red Cliffs Lodge – Moab, UT
July 28, 2019 – August 1, 2019

38th Annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend
National Emergency Training Center – Emmitsburg, MD
October 5, 2019 – October 6, 2019