Throughout the year, the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firefighter’s Fund receives generous donations from a variety of parties—and sometimes, from the unlikeliest of donors.
This year, the Fund received a sizable donation from the La Paz Fishing Group, an informal collective of about twenty mostly retired members whose annual trips to the under-the-radar resort town of La Paz—capital of Baja California Sur, situated at the far southern end of the peninsula on its eastern coast—lend the group its name.
Every September around Mexican Independence Day, the group flies into Cabo San Lucas where its members then charter a van to complete their trip to La Paz, two hours north. They spend the first day of their three-day jaunt fishing Bahía de Los Muertos, and the second two days fishing La Paz proper.
Half the La Paz Fishing Group’s members are retired firefighters, with one member—LAFD Battalion Chief Wade White—still on active duty.
Longtime group member Tim Larson retired from the Los Angeles Fire Department in 2010 as a Captain II Task Force Commander, and subsequently served as a trustee on the Los Angeles Firemen’s Relief Association board for about a decade. The Relief Association is our charity’s parent organization.
“Anybody that’s anything in the L.A. Fire Department knows about the Relief Association and the great work they do,” Tim says.
“If you’re a fireman in Los Angeles,” he continued, “first of all you’re looking for a medical plan for you, and your wife, your kids. I would say maybe probably eighty-five to ninety percent of the guys on the job are in the Relief Association medical plan.”
Raising money for the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firefighter’s Fund was an informal process.
A few years earlier, Tim’s fellow La Paz Fishing Group member and fellow Relief Association Trustee, Rick Godinez, a now retired fire captain II and former senior chaplain for the LAFD, came up with the idea of passing around something like a collection plate to collect donations for the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firefighter’s Fund. Only instead of a collection plate, it was a margarita glass.
“Nobody thinks twice about throwing ten, fifteen bucks down for a margarita,” laughed Tim, explaining the rationale behind Rick’s proposal. “How about throwing ten, fifteen bucks into this empty margarita goblet that I grabbed off the bar? Let’s just pass it around and make a donation to Widows & Orphans.”
The group has donated every year since.
Firefighters helping firefighters: a young family in need
“We’ve got a few guys in the group who’ve directly benefited from the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firefighter’s Fund and also the Relief Association,” Tim explained, “so they’ve got nothing but praise. They know what the Relief Association does, what the Assistance Committee does, and they certainly are all very aware of what the Medical Committee does for them. Most of them are on the Relief Association medical plan.”
Tim remembers how the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firefighter’s Fund provided support for the family of a fallen colleague.
“We had a fireman, young guy on the job,” Tim recalled, “had less than five years on, so his pension was not vested. Which means, if he died or if he got hurt seriously, he would not be able to collect a pension, because he didn’t have five years on.”
And that’s exactly what happened one day when the young firefighter went motorcycle riding in the desert, and had an accident that proved fatal, leaving behind a girlfriend and their baby. With his tenure as a firefighter falling short of five years, his family was left without the security a pension would have guaranteed. That’s when the Fund stepped in to help.
Tim adds: “You tell me another insurance plan that would call his girlfriend up and say ‘Hey, let me tell you something. Your son, we’re going to pay his medical premiums till he’s eighteen.’ Have you ever heard of an insurance company doing something like that? So that’s what the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firefighter’s Fund does. Stuff like that. We see an obscure, unique need, and we present it to the board, and we vote on it.”
So, for Tim and the La Paz Fishing Group, supporting the charity and the Relief Association is a no-brainer.
“It’s a very unique organization,” says Tim, and I’m very proud to have been a part of it for many years.”
By Paul Haynes