In emergency services, everyone sees fire trucks, ambulances, or police cars on the scene, and they may even assume that this is the entire complement of personnel we have. But many of us have behind-the-scenes workers who allow our first responders to do their jobs. They might be the organization’s secretary, the person who cleans the station, or the financial committee chairman. Members who do not respond to calls, but we may be lost without them. Tonie Gentile was one of those members.

Tonie grew up in emergency services with her entire family serving in the local fire department. So, when her time came, Tonie finished her Firefighter 1 and EMT certifications. The firehouse is where our relationship began. Eventually getting married and having a child, Tonie gave up on responding to calls, becoming that behind-the-scenes person, making sure multiple ambulances were available to respond to calls for help. Working for the local EMS agency and an Emergency Services Consulting Company, Tonie worked with emergency providers in over 14 states, ensuring they had what was needed when the tones dropped.

Unfortunately, in July of 2022, after several weeks of not feeling well, Tonie went to the doctor and received the devastating news that no family ever wants to hear. Breast Cancer. For whatever reason, Tonie had waited too long to reach out for help, and the cancer had spread. She was immediately started on new cancer treatments in the hopes that she could prolong her life, but in the end, the cancer was too entrenched. Tonie lost her battle in only seven months.

Tonie had supported Emergency Services since she was a child, and now it is our turn to support those who keep us in the field. Tonie’s Fund is a non-profit organization with two primary goals. First, send people to school to help fight this terrible disease and to provide the care required in the pre-hospital setting. Tonie’s Fund will support scholarships in the medical field to deserving students and develop partnerships with EMS Academy to educate more EMTs and Paramedics to respond to calls for help. Secondly, Tonie’s Fund will raise money to fight breast cancer and primarily focus on early detection.

Being a first responder, we all know there is a time to celebrate our achievements. That is precisely what we intend to do with Tonie’s Fund.

On March 10, 2024, Tonie’s Fund will present “Tonie’s Country Roads Concerts to College Tour,” an afternoon of live entertainment, food and prizes. Our first concert will be at The Truck Bar, 151 Webster Square in Berlin, Connecticut, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Come support those who worked to keep us all responding and help us fight for the cure.