Firefighters support Operation First Response with sticker sale

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OCEAN CITY — Last fall, Capt. Steve Costantino and his crew from the Ocean City Fire Department participated in the annual Walk for the Wounded event on the Ocean City Boardwalk. This year, they want to do more than just walk.

As the Sept. 29 event approaches, Costantino and members of the OCFD Local 27 decided to start raising money now.

“We’re doing a Freedom Sticker fundraiser,” he said. “We’re selling $5 stickers to raise money and awareness for Operation First Response.”

Sponsored by Ocean City Home Bank, the Walk for the Wounded supports Operation First Response, an organization helping the nation’s wounded veterans and their families with personal and financial needs.

With a veteran of the Navy and Marines among his crew, Costantino said last year’s walk had a big impact on all of the firefighters.

“It felt really good to participate,” Costantino said. “We walked in our gear. We met and talked to a bunch of the soldiers, kids really, veterans of the war, who had been wounded. They lost limbs, they were severely wounded and they face big challenges. It was heartbreaking. Meeting them made us feel like we needed to do more to help.”

With the goal of selling 5,000 stickers and raising $25,000, the OCFD is hoping to spread the word.

“We’re working with Ocean City Home Bank, trying to meet our goal,” Costantino said. “We’re really excited about it.”

Costantino said the response has been heartwarming.

“It’s gaining steam,” he said. “It’s a cause that almost everyone can relate to. Everyone has a soft spot in their heart for a wounded soldier.”

Costantino said he was impressed with Operation First Response.

“They are there for a soldier from the onset of the injury throughout their recovery,” he said. Financial aid varies as each case in based on individual needs, ranging from rent, utilities, car payments, groceries, travel and expenses.

A dozen of the 56 Ocean City firefighters, Costantino noted, are veterans.

“This really means something to the fire department,” he said.

Operation First Response is the bridge that enables veterans to exist during the lengthy Veterans Affairs claim process, which on average can take from six months to one yea, Costantino said.

“Almost anyone can find it in their budget to spend $5 to help our veterans,” Costantino said. “This is a great cause helping so many young soldiers.”

Stickers can be purchased at all Ocean City fire stations or can be mailed, Costantino said. Stickers can also be purchased online at OCFIRE.ORG, or by calling 525-9183.

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