Firefighter comes to rescue of first responders with sick kids

(CBS News) NEW YORK -- At New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, former New York fireman P.J. Schrantz is busy with his second career.

P.J. Schrantz
P.J. Schrantz CBS News

"There was a boy that's five years old, his name is Julio," Schrantz said. "He reminded me of my son on so many levels. It does bring me back, but I can't think of a better way to honor my son."

Twelve years ago Wednesday, Schrantz lost four members of his engine company. At the same time, his 5-year-old son Dustin was battling leukemia. Schrantz was at Ground Zero on 9/11.

"In the front of my mind, my heart was at home with my son and family," he says.

Dustin died two years later. Schrantz says the kind of people who help others have a hard time asking for help themselves.

P.J. Schrantz lost his son Dustin to leukemia.
P.J. Schrantz lost his son Dustin to leukemia.

"Right now as we speak, there are firefighters running into a burning building, there are police officers putting their lives on the line, there are men and women in camouflage uniforms on foreign lands fighting to project our freedom, and thousands of those heroes have critically ill children," he says.

To help first responders and other families with sick kids, Schrantz started, a group which assists with medical bills, medications and entertainment at children's hospitals.

New York police officer Mark Staniscewski spent seven months working at Ground Zero.

Jake Staniscewski is fighting a rare pediatric cancer.
Jake Staniscewski is fighting a rare pediatric cancer.

"Jake, my beautiful 21-month-old boy got diagnosed with a rare pediatric cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma," he says. "He's currently fighting for his life. To not be able to fight for him is the worst feeling a father can have, and P.J. understands that."

Wishgivers is holding a fundraiser to help the Staniscewski family pay medical bills.

Heroism isn't always about rushing into harm's way. Sometimes it's as simple as getting a little girl to smile.