Lakewood, Wash. – On Thursday, June 18, 2009, the Lakewood Fire Department will be throwing a birthday party for 5-year-old Reuben Charity. The department first learned about Rueben when they received a phone call from Reuben’s mother, Jeannetta Charity, earlier this year. She was asking for public education materials, such as coloring books, stickers and a plastic fire hat to use in a project she was working on at Tacoma Community College. She said she’d like this project to double as an educational tool to teach Reuben about what his father did as a firefighter.
Reuben’s father, Melvin Champaign, was a firefighter, although Reuben never had a chance to get to know him. On June 18, 2007, while fighting a fire in a furniture warehouse in Charleston, South Carolina, the roof collapsed and Melvin Champaign was killed, along with eight other firefighters, leaving the fire department and the community devastated. Champaign was 46 years old and had been in the fire service for just two years.
After receiving her request, the Lakewood Fire Department gave Jeannetta the materials and asked if Reuben could visit the fire station for his birthday. She agreed and Reuben will be having his fifth birthday at Station 20 on Thursday, June 18th at 4pm.
“The fire service is a family, no matter what coast you live on and Melvin Champaign gave the ultimate sacrifice. We have an opportunity to celebrate with Reuben and his family and are honored to be a part of this,” Fire Chief Ken Sharp said.
Although Reuben’s birthday isn’t until the following week, Jeannetta Charity felt it was special way to celebrate his father’s life and the sacrifice he made.