Boy with illness honored by local firefighters

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Riley Ruppert-Richendollar was the guest of honor Sunday at Jacksonville Fire Rescue's Station 4.

The 7-year-old was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, and some of his heroes at JFRD helped make him feel like a hero himself.

"Ever since he's been 2 or 3 years old he's wanted to do nothing but be a fireman," said Scott Rupert, Riley's father. "This is a great inspiration for him to be able to come out here and share this time with the men and women of Jacksonville."

Riley can now call himself an honorary member of JFRD. Firefighters gave him the title in a surprise ceremony, just for him.

When asked why he wants to be a firefighter, his answer was simple; he wants to help people.

But the men and women of Jacksonville Fire Rescue are hoping to help Riley. His dad says his son is facing the fight of his life.

"We've just completed his 12th chemotherapy treatment," said Ruppert. "He has 40 more to go"

Firefighter Jeremy Lee is trying to help Riley keep his hopes up by building him a toy.

"I'm a moderately skilled woodworker so I said, 'well maybe it'll cheer him up to have a fire truck' so that's when I started," said Lee.

Lee and other firefighters have gotten to know the 7-year-old over the past year through his visits to the fire station.

Lee decided Riley needed his own truck, and Sunday, presented him with "Truck 2" built by hand, for a child he describes as special.

"Just a dogged up determination to learn and better himself," said Lee. "It's really hard to sum him all up in words, but he's and extraordinary man."

Riley's father said there will be a fundraiser at 9 a.m. Saturday at Peas in a Pod Learning Center at 9652 Hood Road. A portion of all vendor proceeds go toward helping Riley.