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Firefighters help 6-year-old with cancer fight

Riley, 6, has been visiting fire stations since he was 2-years-old

A 6-year-old battling brain cancer felt a heat of support Wednesday when a swarm of firefighters surprised him at Wolfson Children's Hospital.

Jacksonville Fire-Rescue's Ladder 44 crew spent the morning with Riley Ruppert-Richendollar, and the young recruit didn't need much training.

"Say there's a stove fire. I don't want to put as much carbon monoxide into the fire," Riley said.

The firefighters were impressed.

"Riley probably knows more than some rookies do," JFRD Lt. Michael "Chip" George said.

Riley wants to be a firefighter when he grows up, and his reasoning is simple.

"Because I like to help people a lot," Riley said.

Right now Riley is fighting a battle against brain cancer.

Six months ago, when Riley was having bad headaches and his parents took him to the doctor, they found a cancerous tumor in his brain. After his morning with firefighters, Riley is going under the knife for a biopsy -- the first of many procedures that he'll have to undergo to get better.

"We've had a lot of times when we had a lot of moments to ourselves, and we just cry," said Riley's father, Scott Ruppert. "And there's other times we're just thankful for every day that we have."

Riley has been visiting local fire stations and learning the ropes since he was 2 years old, and when local firefighters heard that he was headed into surgery at Wolfson, they surprised him outside Wolfson Children's Hospital.

"It wasn't a matter of 'Can I,'  but 'What time do you need us there?'" George said. "Just us showing up, spending 30 minutes with him down here, it's hard to express. It just does your heart good."

More than a dozen firefighters and three fire trucks kept his mind on the thing he loves, and off of his brain tumor.

"It felt awesome," Riley said.

Doctors said Riley's cancer was spotted early, and he's ready to beat it.

"(I'll) try to get strong as I can and try to feel up to it," Riley said.

He has some advice for other kids going through the same thing.

"Don't be scared," he said.

Riley and his family are thankful for the support of JFRD and said that Riley plans to keep a close relationship with the firefighters.