In his 32-year career with the North Muskegon Fire Department, Chief Steve Lague has saved babies, helped victims of car accidents and extinguished countless fires. But nothing in his career compares to witnessing 5-year-old Chase become a firefighter for the day.
"Having a happy day and making that wish come true...it was unbelievable," Lague said. "This was the pinnacle of my career."
Chase, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, wished to be a firefighter. And Lague was instrumental in working with Make-A-Wish® Michigan and engaging hundreds of first responders and community members in Muskegon County to help grant Chase’s wish.
Within minutes of being approached by wish-granting volunteer Bonnie Nolan about helping with Chase’s wish, Lague was hooked. He researched other firefighter wishes that have been granted around the country and brainstormed ideas on how to help make Chase’s day one he would never forget.
“We wanted to do it right,” Lague said. “We wanted to make it special – whip cream and cherries on top.”
From the moment Chase walked out the doors of his apartment, where firefighters from the Norton Shores Fire Department lined the path to the limo that would take Chase to the North Muskegon Fire Department, he was surrounded by an outpouring of love and support from the community.
“The sheer support of the community and people who didn’t know Chase who came out to wish him well…overwhelming would be an understatement,” said Lague, noting that just about every municipality in the county was involved in some way.
Chase was named an honorary firefighter during a ceremony at the North Muskegon Fire Department, received a uniform and badge and then walked through a “silent parade” that included dozens of rescue vehicles. He shook hands and exchanged high fives with countless firefighters before being dispatched to put out a fire at the City of Muskegon Fire Station. Chase spent time riding in the fire truck with Lague, passing signs along the road featuring encouraging words and well wishers who cheered him on.
“He was in awe,” Lague said. “I kept telling him ‘look at all these people who are here for you.’”
The day was capped off with lunch at G & L Greek Chili Dogs and a ride in the bucket of a ladder truck.
Chase's mom, Holly, said Chase's wish being granted meant so much to Chase and their entire family.
"It was amazing," Holly said. "The community has been so great, and we are so thankful."
And Lague couldn’t be more grateful for the response from the community and for the opportunity to help play a part in Chase’s day.
“If this can relieve a little pain and let them forget about all the pain and hardship the family is going through, that’s pretty special,” Lague said.