By Jeff Gallatin
North Olmsted firefighter Carl Schanz believes a lot of people put him in the driver’s seat for getting the 2013 Knights of Columbus Bluecoat of the Year award.
Schanz received the award in a ceremony last week from the Knights of Columbus chapter including the Bay Village, Fairview Park, North Olmsted and Westlake parishes. The organization gives the award annually to a police officer or firefighter who either works for a department in those cities and/or lives in one of them.
Schanz said he appreciates the honor, but said the honor really belongs to many people.
“I may be driving the bus for this award for helping people, but there are a lot of people on that bus,” Schanz said in speaking of the award. “There are so many people in our communities who help others out or who take part in one of the activities we do to help out.”
Schanz cited as one example the annual car show for muscular dystrophy put on every July by the North Olmsted firefighters, which is regularly ranked among the best car shows in the region.
“A lot of people are involved in that,” said Schanz, who has been the primary organizer for the event since it began more than 25 years ago. “You have all the businesses and people in the community who donate things to the event. You have all the firefighters and others who volunteer for it every year, and you have the people who attend and support it and help the MDA (Muscular Dystrophy Association). My wife Susan deserves thanks for doing as much as she does in helping out and fielding all the phone calls for me and the events. There are a lot of events out there to help and honor people.”
Schanz cited the firefighters’ upcoming breakfast with North Olmsted school district students who won a coin wars contest.
“Those kids help out by collecting those coins to help out in the community,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of people glad to have a breakfast with them and show them some appreciation. It’s nice for me to be honored by the Knights of Columbus because they help a lot of people themselves. And my name may be on the plaque, but a lot of names should be.”
Paul Mathieson, deputy grand knight for Knights of Columbus Council 4731, said the organization is proud to honor the firefighters and police every year.
“They’re all special just because they use a God-given talent and help others,” Mathieson said. “The ones who are nominated for and receive this award do so much for people. Firefighter Schanz certainly is in that category, with all his activities.”
Mathieson lauded Schanz’s work at the awards ceremony.
“He has served as a fire investigator, fire safety inspector, community and school educator,” Mathieson said of Schanz at the ceremony. “He has served in the Westshore hazmat emergency response team, received training in high angle rope rescue as well as confined space and trench rescue. He is also trained in anti-terrorism.
“While Firefighter Schanz’s professional credentials and achievements are formidable, it is his volunteer activities in our community that have earned the admiration and respect of his co-workers and brought him to our attention. Carl is a volunteer for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, on whose behalf he has organized the North Olmsted Fire Fighters benefit car show since 1988. He organizes “Breakfast With Santa and the Grinch” on behalf of the MDA as well. He is the organizer since 2000 of Coats for Kids, where over 500 coats have been collected for needy children. He is the fire department historian and volunteers at the National Park Service. He leads by example in health and fitness, as he is a competitor in weight lifting and “Battle of the Bulge” stair climb events, as well as competing in the national Firefighter Challenge in Las Vegas, Nev.
“I think we would all agree that there’s no higher praise than the esteem of one’s own colleagues and co-workers. His fellow firefighters have nominated him for the Emergency Service Gold Medal presented by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.”
North Olmsted fire Chief Ed Schepp said the award is well-deserved.
“Carl exemplifies what a firefighter should be, and represents this department well with all his work,” Schepp said.