WINDERMERE, Fla. – The Orange County Fire Rescue Department will host the annual 343 Hero Challenge in September. The event raises funds for the Florida Firefighter Cancer Support Network.
The 343 Hero Challenge, now in its seventh year, is a competition based on CrossFit-style workouts coupled with firefighter training-style implements. The competition honors the 343 firefighters who lost their lives Sept. 11, 2001.
"We're coming up on the 18th year of 9/11 and there's some people that don't even remember that day. Three-hundred and forty-three firefighters lost their lives that day along with a lot of other police officers, port authority, military throughout this country, and we want to pay honor to those men and women," organizer and firefighter Doss Bozeman said.
Every year, OCFR picks someone different to compete as an honor athlete. Last year's honoree was LeeAnn Yanni, a physical therapist in Central Florida who survived the Boston Marathon bombing. You can read more about her story here.
This year, firefighters were impressed with the story of 12-year-old Daniel Roberts.
In April, Roberts crossed the finish line at the Disney Star Wars Rival Run 5k. It's an achievement that came two years after he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma -- a type of bone cancer which prompted doctors to amputate his right leg from the knee down.
"It's really an inspiration, you know, firefighters are overcome by cancer at an astronomical rate, and to see a young man such as Daniel basically take back his life, and now he's, you know, prospering," Orange County Fire Rescue Lt. Dave Coughlin said.
The soon to be seventh grader was surprised with the recognition when his mom took him to Station 35 in Windermere where he was welcomed into a new family.
"It's a huge honor for us -- renders me speechless to know that he's part of a family and a community, it's amazing," Daniel's mom, Catherine Inman said about the emotional experience her son was treated to by some of Orange County's bravest.
Daniel was taken on a tour of the fire station, where he met several firefighters. He was also dressed up as a firefighter and got to use a powerful water hose.
"It was awesome because I was being greeted by firefighters, people who save the world daily," Roberts said.
The 343 Hero Challenge takes place Sept. 7.