Emma Hughes’ firefighter dad, Graham, was her hero. Since he passed away unexpectedly while on duty in 2003, the pride she felt in his role has never left her, and has instilled in her with a life-long desire to support the fire service. So much so, that she has just become our first Charity Ambassador.
“Everyone thinks that their dad is a hero, but growing up and seeing the heroic things my dad did, he was superman in my eyes,” says Emma, who lives in Bolton. “I can’t look after my dad anymore, but I can look after people like him.”
In 2003, while out on a shout Graham suddenly collapsed from a heart attack. His colleagues tried in vain to work his heart, and managed to get his pulse going again, but with no defibrillator on the pump, it took too long and he suffered brain damage that he never recovered from. He later died in hospital, aged just 53. He was 18 months away from retirement after 28 years in the fire service.
“The lads did the best they could, but we knew he wasn’t going to come back from this,” says Emma. “Obviously I was devastated, but I didn’t want to sit around and be bitter. I wanted to carry on what he’d started, doing my bit to support the fire service that meant so much to him.”
Having grown up helping at the various fundraising events her dad was involved in, Emma decided to channel her grief into positive action, and started to volunteer more of her time to help The Fire Fighters Charity.
“You can get really bogged down with your own bubble, but I thought of all those people, retired or serving, who needed help from the Charity, and it kept me going,” she says. “We ask these people to do superhuman things, and then just go home and fit back into normal life. I wanted to be part of the group of people looking after these people who do things we could never do.”
When it comes to the ways she has volunteered, it would perhaps be easier to list what she hasn’t done than to list what she has. She has spent 16 years donating her time to The Fire Fighters Charity. From car washes and bucket collections, to visiting stations or hosting coffee mornings to spread the word about the Charity, and even volunteering 100 hours of her time to support with Welfare after recent wild fires in the area.
So when she heard about a new volunteer role being created in the Charity, she knew she had to be involved.
“I was told about the Charity Ambassador role, helping increase awareness of the Charity’s services and reaching more and more people to spread the message, and I just thought, I need to be part of this,” she says. “It’s not just so I look good, it’s something that gives me so much back. I’ve not lost my dad because of all this, the bond is still there.
“If you cut me in half, I would bleed The Fire Fighters Charity. I’d have to be asked to leave before I stop doing this. I genuinely want to do more, it’s like a sense of belonging. I think it’s a fantastic idea to have all these volunteers purely working to increase awareness of the Charity. There is a missing link between the amazing work you do and people knowing they can be supported. And even if they know they’re eligible, they might not be able to pluck up the courage and reach out. So if I can give them that support and reassurance to contact the Charity, it will be huge. It’s such an exciting opportunity, to make people aware just how much more there is to the Charity than what they think they know.
“To know I’m the very first ambassador, and the first in what will hopefully be a long line of like-minded people working together to support our heroes in the fire service… Well, it just doesn’t get any better.”