Caring for Hidden Heroes: Putting First Responder Families First


Photo by ©Bree Fowles/Bluebird Pictures
By Jodie Burke and Scott Perrin
Samantha Switzer and her FDNY dad William ©Maria Switzer

When disaster strikes—whether it’s a pandemic, hurricane, fire, flood, or terrorist attack—our first responders are first on the scene to help. Frequently, that means physical, mental, and emotional stress as our first responders risk their own lives to come to our rescue. Fortunately, the First Responders Children’s Foundation can help by providing support to first responders and their families who are enduring hardship. Right now, first responders are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in every community across the country.

In response to the pandemic, First Responders Children’s Foundation has touched the lives of more than 1,397,470 first responder families across the country by providing: 13,000 hotel rooms plus meals so first responders can quarantine and not risk infecting their families. The Foundation also distributed 875,500 face masks to 625 first responder agencies and awarded 9,453 cash grants to first responders with financial hardship due to COVID-19. The Foundation also paid for 242 funerals of first responders or their family members who died from COVID-19. During the holidays, they delivered 500,000 toys to children of first responders & children in first responder communities.

Finally, core to the Foundation’s mission, they awarded 126 college scholarships to children whose first responder parent was killed or injured in the line of duty. These children represent hope and resilience in the face of unimaginable tragedy, and many dedicate their lives to helping others to honor the sacrifice their first responder parent made.

One of those students is Samantha Switzer, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from NYU. Samantha’s father, William Switzer, was a firefighter for the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) who participated in the Search and Recovery Mission at the World Trade Center site after the attacks on 9/11. Due to his exposure to toxins at Ground Zero, the firefighter was diagnosed with Stage 3 renal cell carcinoma in June 2017, and died in March 2018.

“When my dad got sick, I was always at Sloane (Kettering Cancer Center) 24/7 with a full-time school schedule. I was working two jobs, helping to take care of my family,” Samantha says. She knew she wanted to pursue a career in the medical field but didn’t know whether to become a doctor or a nurse. “Being at Sloan and seeing how the nurses were so involved with patients, I knew right away that nursing would be a better fit for me,” Samantha says. “It’s my calling.”

“Now that I’ve passed my Boards, I’m super excited to know that I’ll be able to follow in my dad’s footsteps,” Samantha says. “I’m going to help people in a different way, by being a nurse. I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish my goal of helping others, like my father did, without a scholarship from the First Responders Children’s Foundation.”

“If everyone helps each other, the world is a better place,” Samantha says.

The First Responders Children’s Foundation helps people who devote their lives to helping others. If you would like to join this mission, go to to learn more.

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First Responders Children’s Foundation provides financial support to children who have lost a parent in the line of duty as well as families enduring significant financial hardship due to tragic circumstances. 


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