Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Fireman Max's good deed project: So proud of this guy

When I started planning for Max's bar mitzvah, it was a given that in honor of it he would do a good deed project, aka a mitzvah project. After I crowdsourced ideas here a year ago, Max opted for a fire safety presentation to nobody's surprise.

I consulted with a teacher at the school who's done fire safety programs, and we decided Max could present to her kindergarten class. That was cool with Max; I pointed out that he would be able to teach the little kids important stuff. The teacher put me in touch with a local fire department, and a firefighter committed to coming by.

Over the course of several weeks, Max put together sentences for the presentation on his Proloquo2Go speech app. Max had plenty of ideas for which fire safety facts he wanted to talk about. I made a PowerPoint with the sentences, Max chose photos and we and shot a couple of action videos for it. He'd run through the presentation on his speech app as the PowerPoint showed on the class's SmartBoard. Firefighter Michael gave it his seal of approval.

On the day of, Max wore his beloved Fire Chief hat and t-shirt from The Wildwood Fire Dept. at the Jersey shore. He brought his favorite Tonka fire truck (well, one of them) to school as a good luck charm.

Max lucked out—Firefighter Michael brought a pal, Kevin. The two of them stood in the class as Max did his thing. Max acted like he'd been making presentations his entire life, so cool and calm was he.

Here's Max's presentation:

Although his videos didn't work because the teacher's computer had no video player, Max gave impromptu live demonstrations of how to stop, drop and roll and crawl low in case of smoke. One of the videos:

The kids were really into it. Afterward, some practiced their stop, drop and roll. I asked this cute little guy whether he'd ever want to go to firefighter school. "No, I go to this school!" he pointed out. Then Max handed out Kidde Worry-Free Combination Smoke and CO Alarms, with 10-year batteries. He's been a Kidde Kid Ambassador this past year, and they generously sent 10 alarms for all the kids, along with fire hats, fire safety flyers and stickers.

When Michael and Kevin invited everyone outside to check out the fire truck, Max was psyched to show kids the various tools. Even the teachers were duly awed by the jaws of life.

This project was a win-win. The kids picked up key tips. And Max clearly felt empowered by what he'd done, because as we walked back toward his class he gave me a big high-five and asked if he could do the presentation again. A teacher standing outside her class overheard us and said that could work, and I just emailed to set it up. How awesome would it be if Max could regularly teach fire safety, perhaps even at other schools?

Oftentimes, kids participate in programs for children with special needs for a mitzvah project (ideally, they stay involved for years afterward). Max has been that kid, and over the years he's enjoyed the company of teens who have come to our house to hang with him. I've always tried to help his playmates see Max's abilities; he is not some poor, pathetic boy who needs to be anyone's "project." (For a related good read on the topic, see Pamela Rae Schuller's I'm Not Your Mitzvah Project op-ed.)

Last week, though, Max was the one doing a good deed. He planned, prepared and made it happen. He truly wanted to help those kindergartners learn to stay safe, intentions befitting a bar mitzvah boy. I was so proud of Max. And even better, Max was so proud of himself.


  1. Yay Fireman Max! What a wonderful job you're doing teaching others how to stay safe!

  2. I figured this would suit him due to his people-orientedness.

  3. I am very impressed with your presentation Fireman Man. Continue the good work of helping people be safe.

  4. That's fabulous work! You never know what impact that may have on a family.

    I thought you and Max would enjoy this story of a children's firefighting program in a Christian child sponsorship organization. It was just posted yesterday and is not only a great story of community partnership but a story of the impossible becoming possible for one boy.

    1. ... And thanks for the Schuller link. I watched the full Eli talk. Well spoken, well explained. (And funny, too!)

  5. GoodJob Fireman Max! I wonder if this could end up being his job someday. Another very important fire prevention tip is to make sure your electrical cords are not covered with paper or other materials. This can cause the wire to smolder and set your house on fire. This is what happened to my next door neighbor over the weekend and she died.

  6. Awesome Presentation! He did a great job. I couldn't tell from the video but does Fireman Max has a bluetooth speaker synced to his iPad? If not that could help with some volume issues for when he is presenting to future classes. We use speakers all the time with AAC- My favourite portable one is the "JBL Clip" but something louder may be needed for little kids.

  7. Great project and how awesome for Max.


Thanks for sharing!

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