The Josh Richardson family could hardly contain their excitement.
Less than 24 hours earlier, Richardson and his Dallas Mavericks’ teammates survived a 115-110 battle against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night at American Airlines Center. Now there was more work to be done, but this time in the community.
Alice and Mike Richardson were thrilled to join their son, Josh, on a Zoom call Friday afternoon to make a meaningful – and surprise donation – to some of the bravest men and women in the city at Dallas Fire Station 8.
For the Richardsons, the firefighter life was once central to their family.
Josh’s father, Mike, served as a fireman for nearly three decades. Josh would often go to work with his father and had clean-up duties like the rest of the guys that included cooking, doing the dishes and shining the rigs. Mike has since retired, but service to community never stops for the Richardson family.
On Friday, Josh and his mother, Alice, plus Mike came together to virtually meet and greet the firefighters at Station 8. They also had a big surprise waiting.
And it all came with a kiss of comfort.
The Mavericks, along with partners BEDGEAR and Ashley Homestore, gifted Dallas Fire Station 8 with 12 new BEDGEAR beds, sheets, and pillows for their sleeping quarters, and Ashley HomeStore pitched in brand new bed frames, couches and recliners.
The firefighters seemed most excited that their new beds were outfitted with fancy remote controls that allow them to sit up and read or elevate their weary legs when needed.
Others relished in their comfy new recliners and couches that were certainly an upgrade over their former digs.
“Today is amazing,” Richardson shouted as the firefighters wondered in the background carrying in brand new furniture.
Josh and his parents conversed with the firemen as they set up their new furniture in the background. He shared how his dad was a firefighter in the Oklahoma City area for 27 years.
“My dad worked at a couple of stations, so I’ve been able to see different levels of fire stations,” the Mavs’ 27-year-old guard said. “Those guys really appreciate when things switch up and they get new furniture.”
THE BEAST OF THE EAST
Dallas Fire Station 8 is tucked along Garrett Avenue in Old East Dallas. It’s a place where the firefighters call themselves the “Beast of the East” because it’s one of the busiest fire and rescue stations in the city. About eight firefighters work there per shift.
The area is dotted with apartments on all sides, populating the zone even more. And leaders estimate that an average of 15 engine calls plus 18-20 rescue calls filter in throughout 24 hours.
The nights can be even more daunting with a constant stream of welfare calls and other emergencies. There are no off days, and rest is more valuable than gold around there.
“This is our firefighters’ second home,” said Daniel Salazar, the assistant chief Fire Station 8. “They spend one-third of their lives at the fire station. Today they received BEDGEAR bedding and a couple of couches and recliners from Ashley HomeStore that’s going to make their stay here at the fire station (better). So when they come back from some of these stressful calls, they can decompress a little with this nice furniture that’s been donated today.”
Chief Salazar said the bedding is “quite a step above” than the station had before.
Other leaders on the call shared how the firefighters often have to dig into their own pockets to create furniture upgrades and new comfort. One man said the new furniture will also give them a ton of pride for their station.
“This is going to be a really nice transition for them,” Chief Salazar added. “The furniture they had in the living room was pretty used, so they are really looking forward to that as well.”
May 4 is International Firefighters’ Day, a time when the world’s community comes together to recognize and honor the sacrifices that firefighters make to ensure communities and environments are as safe as possible. It’s also a day in which current and past firefighters can be thanked for their contributions.
This past year has been a grueling journey for these men and women as they faced a common enemy known as the coronavirus. So, Richardson and the Mavericks — in partnership with BEDGEAR and Ashley HomeStore — were determined to make the event extra special.
“The overall health of these courageous men and women is a top priority for BEDGEAR, and we are dedicated to giving them the bedding essentials they need to make the most of their recovery time,” said BEDGEAR founder and CEO Eugene Alletto. “One of BEDGEAR’s mottos is to ‘wake ready’ and these firefighters genuinely need to.”
International Firefighters’ Day is held on the first Sunday in May of each year, and at noon local time, the firefighting and rescue community come together for a special moment known as a “Sound Off.”
Sirens ring out for 30 seconds, followed by a minute of silence to pay respect for all firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty or passed on before us.
“I think it’s important to shed light on the firemen and let them know how much we appreciate them,” Richardson said. “I don’t know if a lot of people know, but that job is really tough.
“They’re always on the move and the busy stations, like the one today, get 15-18 calls in a 24-hour period. That means they’re not getting any downtime. So, just giving them a little token of appreciation with the pillows and beds is important to me because I’ve kind of seen it first-hand how difficult that job can be.”
THE SON OF SERVANTS
Josh Richardson values hard work, discipline, and commitment to the community. His parents live out the words from Proverbs 22:6 to “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
By the time Josh arrived in September of 1993, his mother, Alice, was already a veteran of the United States Air Force reserves. His father, Mike, was a firefighter and would often load Josh in the firetruck and they’d venture out into the streets of Edmond and Oklahoma City.
Early on, the parents recognized the importance of getting Josh in the right environment and exposing him to leaders in the community.
Josh especially loved spending time with his dad and Mike equally enjoyed bringing Josh into his environment and world. He was so well-known around the fire station that he even had a cot next to his father’s bed.
“I would sleep there and bring my Nintendo 64 and just play it,” Josh laughed.
He also got a first-hand look at servanthood and leadership.
All these lessons have helped Richardson become a champion in the community and leader on the basketball court.
This past January, the NBA recognized his effort and named Richardson co-winner of the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for his desire to help the children of fallen military heroes. Now he’s given that same kind of love and appreciation to the firefighting community.
‘IT REALLY WAS LIKE A FAMILY’
Richardson has fond memories of working with his dad, which also includes a little mischief.
When Josh was around the age of 13, he rode in the truck with Mike when his dad responded to an apartment fire.
“I was just hanging out the window and trying to see what was happening,” Josh shared.
Soon he spotted his pal and jumped out of the truck to say hello. Mike came back a short time later and Josh was nowhere to be found.
“My dad came back out and he couldn’t find me and whatever,” he says. “It was kind of a big thing for like 15 minutes.”
While his father worked late nights, Alice would hold down the fort back at home. She did her part to keep Josh and his sister, Alex, humbled and focused. The military-style discipline taught the children to work hard, but there was plenty of time for fun and laughter, too.
Alice also coached basketball and was a referee. She eventually retired after 25 years in the military as a lieutenant colonel with the U.S. Air Force reserves. Alice later became an ordained Baptist minister and Josh’s trainer.
She also had two other important titles – wife and mother.
“I was really proud to be a wife of a fireman,” Alice said, “because I knew that he was not only serving his family when he was at home, but he was serving others. He was serving children. That is hugely important.”
She said the community aspect is also important. In fact, Josh grew up playing sports with the children of other firefighters.
“It was really like a family,” Alice said. “Believe it or not, he’s retired after 30 years, but we’re still friends with many of them today. The community doesn’t end. That lets me know that those relationships we built are legitimate.”
There were difficult moments, too, like the time that a building fell on Mike, causing him to have surgery. It’s something seared into Josh’s memory and reminded him of the dangerous jobs firefighters perform every day around the world.
“It was extremely hard,” Mike said, “especially just hearing God tell you that it’s not your time to go. I had an older brother who started before me, so I knew how hard it was, but I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.”
As Mike and Alice recalled some of their life on Friday’s call, Josh smiled on with endearment as the couple shared some of their memories about the fire station.
Josh says now that he’s older, he wants to go back and experience everything as an adult with his dad. He also promised the fire and rescue team at Fire Station 8 that he’ll eventually come and see them once COVID-19 health and safety protocols are eased.
Josh understands that his role as a professional athlete comes with great responsibility, like giving back to those who protect us each day.
“I just think that anyone that I can help and bring happiness and joy to their lives is an opportunity I and anyone else should jump at.”
It’s a message that’s also important to the Mavericks.
“The firefighters of the Dallas Fire Department 8 are working even more extensive hours, not just because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also following the devastating winter storm that shook the area earlier this year,” said Dallas Mavericks SVP of External Affairs Katie Edwards. “We hope this donation provides some relief to our local heroes who are spending time away from their families and friends. The Mavs want them to know they are loved.”
LIGHT THE RED
On behalf of the Dallas Mavericks, we want to recognize and honor all the firefighters from around the globe and in our community who sacrifice their lives each day to create safe environments for us to live, work and play. We also pause to remember those brave men and women who lost their lives in the line of duty. We will never forget you.
May 4 is International Firefighters’ Day, a time when the world’s community comes together to recognize and honor the sacrifices that firefighters make to ensure communities and environments are as safe as possible. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation is asking residents, communities, businesses, and fire departments from coast to coast to celebrate and remember firefighters this year by lighting your porch RED.
How does this work?
Change the lightbulb on the front porch, or change the color filter shining on a business, to highlight the great work firefighters do every day. Then take a photo and share on social media with the hashtag #Shine4Firefighters. You can also create signs and send thank you cards to show appreciation to the men and women in your community.