MILO, Maine — Mark Demers, 57, a former Milo firefighter who has cancer, said he was humbled by the red carpet treatment firefighters from throughout the state gave him at the annual firefighters convention held last weekend in Kennebunk.
“It was just so overwhelming how people made everything so accommodating,” Demers said Tuesday.
During his 22-year-career as a volunteer firefighter and a fire prevention instructor, Demers missed only one of the 22 firefighters conventions. Despite being critically ill from lung and brain cancer, Demers had no intention of missing this year’s convention.
When his fellow firefighters learned of Demers’ plight and his wish, they rallied to help raise about $3,000 to send his family to the event on Sept. 11, 12 and 13.
The trip almost didn’t happen, according to Demers. He had fluid around his heart last week, which prompted a hospital stay. He was discharged a day before the convention started and made the trip.
Demers said Robinson Oil Co. of Dover-Foxcroft furnished his family with a van, which allowed him a chance to recline when necessary. When the van arrived at the Kennebunk exit, Demers said, a small parade of firetrucks escorted his vehicle into town. There, he was given tours of three fire stations and plied with commemorative hats and T-shirts.
More than nine members of his family, some from out of state, came to view the parade for which Demers served as marshal. Demers said he rode on the back of an all-terrain vehicle driven by his wife, Robin Demers, in front of Milo’s contingent in the parade.
“I felt very honored,” Demers said of the recognition.
An added bonus for the family was overnight accommodations donated by Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport. The resort, which is not far from Walker’s Point, where former President George H.W. Bush summers, was excellent, he said.
Perhaps most heartwarming for Demers was the encouragement he received from survivors of cancer who told him never to give up. “They told me to fight it,” he said.
Demers said he wanted to give a heartfelt thank-you to everyone who helped him fulfil his wish. “I didn’t want for anything,” he said.