The family of the late Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo – "Joey D," the former Setauket Fire Department volunteer, FDNY firefighter and Miller Place resident who survived the tragic Black Sunday fire in 2005 only to die of an accidental medication overdose in November 2011 – has launched a nonprofit in his honor.
The Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation will be raising money to provide personal safety ropes and life-saving training to fire departments who cannot afford to pay for them, according to Joe DiBernardo, Joey's father.
"This is all in Joey’s memory because those were his passions," Joe DiBernardo said.
He said the foundation plans to raise money by holding a large training seminar, which will feature well-known fire service instructors from all over the U.S., as a fundraiser. Tentatively planned for June of 2013, it will differ from other nationally known firefighting seminars in that most of the big ones are run as for-profit events by popular fire service magazines.
"The challenge will be to raise enough money to fulfill our goals, getting people to attend our training seminar. Then we’ll be out there looking for donations once we’re up and running," said Joe DiBernardo, himself a former FDNY deputy chief who retired as the sixth division commander serving Harlem and the Bronx.
Personal safety ropes can cost between $600 and $700 apiece, he said, and training for a department can cost thousands.
Joey D's name was known to fire departments all over Long Island and the U.S., Joe DiBernardo said. His death was recently ruled a line-of-duty death and he was named to the FDNY's Wall of Honor. Suffolk County also recently dedicated a portion of Nicolls Road in his memory.
Miller Place Fire Chief Kyle Markott said Joey D's knowledge and dedication was like no other, and said the foundation is a great idea.
"The safety ropes and equipment are an integral part of our firefighting equipment," Markott said in an email to Patch. "... I think the premise behind the foundation is great and a credit to the DiBernardo family and their willingness to help others. Again, Joey had a huge impact on firefighters all over the country and his legacy is sure to live on."
His mother, Barbara DiBernardo, said if anything positive has come from his death, it's this foundation.
"Joey had such a passion for teaching about fire safety in the fire service and the importance of carrying a personal safety rope," she said. "It warms my heart that Joe can carry on Joey's passions through the foundation. Also, I think it warms Joe's heart to be working with and for Joey again ... albeit in a different way."
With reporting by Rich Arleo.