Jake Anderson – Volunteer Firefighter
Father. Former Professional Minor League Hockey Player. Volunteer Firefighter.
When Jake Anderson moved back to Glen Ellyn 8 years ago, he came with strong ties to both the community and to hockey. When he was growing up, his family had moved to Glen Ellyn in 1997 when his father, a former NHL player, began his career as a professional hockey coach. Jake, of course, had a huge passion for the sport. As a young adult, he even played professional minor league hockey before going to school, meeting his wife, and starting his own family in Glen Ellyn.
When they first moved to Glen Ellyn, Jake’s wife learned about the opportunity to volunteer as a firefighter and encouraged him to apply. He was immediately drawn to the idea. “Every kid dreams of being a firefighter,” says Jake. “Getting to do it is a bit like fulfilling a dream.”
The team atmosphere was a big pull for him as well. “Coming from an athletic background, especially with hockey, your team becomes family. When I stopped playing, I had that hole—I missed the locker room camaraderie. That was a big thing that drew me to the fire service,” says Jake. “I love that everyone in the fire company comes from many different backgrounds, but we are all striving for the same end goal. Everyone has something to provide—different knowledge sets and backgrounds to apply to firefighting in unique ways.”
But his biggest draw to the fire company changed as his training progressed. Halfway through his first year, his mother-in-law passed away from cancer. “Everyone has a ‘why’ for pretty much everything they do,” says Jake. “When she passed, I changed my ‘why’ for volunteering. She passed at home, and I remember it happening and being the worst thing ever. It was the firefighters and paramedics who responded. Right then I made the decision that if I had the ability to stop someone else from feeling this way, that I would do it.” Since then, helping someone on their worst day has become the most rewarding experience for Jake.
“I love that everyone in the fire company comes from many different backgrounds, but we are all striving for the same end goal.”
His background in hockey has helped him throughout his time as a firefighter. He is disciplined enough to know that if you are passionate about doing something, you will find the time. He compares the time it takes to volunteer to the time he spent working out to be in shape for hockey. “When you have a passion for something, you will find a way,” says Jake.
It also prepared him to process the heart-pounding experience of a fire. “Fighting a fire is the highest adrenaline thing you could possibly do. That’s coming from someone who was lucky enough to play hockey in front of 15,000-20,000 fans,” says Jake. Although he does note that it is less scary going into a fire than you’d think because you train so hard for it. “You train until it becomes second nature,” says Jake.
And Jake has progressed from realizing his own childhood dream to something even bigger and more important. “My kid basically thinks I’m a superhero, which is the coolest thing in the world,” says Jake. “There is nothing better than knowing you are your kid’s hero.
“We have a need for every skill set. If you want to help your community and help people, we will train you to the point where you can do everything. You just have to bring yourself to the table.”
Jake’s top three reasons to volunteer:
Help people on their worst day. “That’s the thing that turns my gears,” he says. “I live my life with the attitude that, if someone asks for help, you give it. I like knowing that, even if it doesn’t go ideally, it was still better with you there than if you weren’t there.”
Be a part of a team. “For me, one of the best parts is the fellowship,” says Jake. “I now have upwards of 50 brothers and sisters I didn’t have before.”
Be a part of your community. “To me, there is no better way to be a part of your community than to protect it. To be one of the first responders,” says Jake.