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HCMC Burn Center Patients Receive Holiday Cheer From Firefighters

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A group of patients inside Hennepin County Medical Center got a dose of holiday cheer this morning -- Minneapolis firefighters and a former Minnesota Vikings player paid a visit to the burn center, and brought lots of gifts.

Firefighters for Healing is a nonprofit foundation started five years ago by Jake LeFerriere -- a Minneapolis fireman who was severely injured battling a house fire. While being treated at HCMC for his burns, he got the idea to return when he was healthy.

Minneapolis firefighters filled the hallway of the burn unit where patients spend weeks and sometimes months recovering. Former Minnesota Viking Esera Tuaolo added some music to the firefighters' visit by playing the ukulele and singing Jingle Bells.

"Everybody comes together and the love, and that momentum, really changes lives," LaFerriere said.

In 2010, LaFerriere suffered 3rd and 4th degree burns in a backdraft explosion. After recovering, he vowed to raise money to help other burn victims.

Joe Shepersky suffered burns over much of his body after a space heater caused a fire at his home near Brainerd.

"Better, day by day. Each day the pain gets to be a little less," Shepersky said. "First couple of nights it hurt like crazy."

The firefighters gave him an iPad Mini, but it was a pair of slippers that brought a smile to his face.

Mark McGirl of Minneapolis is recovering from burns he suffered from scalding hot water while he was cooking at home. Mark says his injuries have led him to have even more respect for firefighters.

"To know that's a possibility in your job every time the bell rings, you go. That's impressive," he said.

The foundation recently won a national award. If you'd like to make a donation to Firefighters for Healing, visit their website.

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