It's the ultimate cycle of giving. Vicki Minor has dedicated herself to supporting injured firefighters who make an incomparable sacrifice, along with families of the fallen. She offers support and help going after survivor benefits through her Idaho-based nonprofit Wildland Firefighter Foundation.
Minor, a CNN Hero, tells the story of a woman who became disconsolate, barely able to get out of bed to care for her three kids and a newborn after her husband died in a fire. She became even more grief-stricken with money woes when she was initially denied survivor benefits.
And she's not the only one. Many firefighters are contracted and are not eligible for the benefits that protect those who work for the government, Firehouse Magazine explains. Between 1990 and 2008:
"A reported 129 wildland firefighters (including helicopter and tanker crews) have been killed in the line of duty. Only 18 survivor families were approved for claims filed under the Public Safety Officers Benefit (PSOB)."
After a three-year battle, Minor was finally able to help the mother of four get her money. But it doesn't always happen that way.
"We've had firefighters die beside each other -- one gets the benefits, the other familiy gets nothing."
Minor was struck with the idea for her nonprofit after a wildfire on Storm King Mountain in Colorado took the lives of 14 firefighters in 1994. She took an image of the fighters marching up a mountain and printed it on a shirt, raising about $100,000 to help the families, according to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation's website.
Minor then launched a campaign to raise $1 million called The Power of One, in which she asked firefighters to donate to other families.
Today, the Foundation has given more than a $1.5 million in funds and services.
Help the Wildland Firefighter Foundation give to families of fallen firefighters by clicking below to donate.