GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - A benefit to help a firefighter in his fight against cancer turns into so much more as he uses the money to help others.
Lonnie Mitteis has been a firefighter with the Grand Island Fire Department for 19 years. He was diagnosed with bladder cancer about a year ago, and hasn't been able to work for awhile.
"I went and saw a urologist, and they assume you're 58 years old, it's probably a prostate problem, and I was pretty sure it wasn't," Mitteis said.
The doctors found a mass the size of a woman's fist on his bladder. Mitteis underwent chemo for several months. To help cover some of his medical costs, his fellow firemen put together some fundraisers.
One of them was at Prairie Pride Brewing Co. on Sunday. They put boots on the tables for people to make donations. People enjoyed sausages and beer, and greeted Mitteis with open arms.
But Mitteis had a different idea as to what to do with the money. He wants to give all the proceeds raised to someone else with cancer who he feels needs it more.
"God has blessed me with enough money to take care of this, and I've got great friends. They've helped out so well. So we're just paying it back. You know my job is giving. I love what I do, and this is just part of that," Mitteis said.
His friends and family all used the same word to describe him; caring. Actions are louder than words, and Mitteis proves that to be true.
"We're very proud of him for doing that," said Carol Mitteis, Lonnie's mom.
"It would amaze me if he didn't do it," said Les Mitteis, Lonnie's dad. "I'd be shocked if he hadn't. He's just that kind of a person. He's a people person. He wants to help everybody."
Studies show firefighters are more likely than the general population to get cancer.
Unfortunately, that's true for the Grand Island Fire Department as well.
"Just with our 60 guys, we have eight to ten that have had some type of cancer and had it removed, or are dealing with it right now," said Capt. Phil Thomas, Grand Island Fire Department. "Honestly, cancer in the fire service, it's been really bad."
Thomas said the department is getting new gear to try to prevent this for future firefighters.
As for Mitteis, he'll be working with staff from the Cancer Center to figure out which cancer patient to give the money to.
He'll be having a major surgery on Monday. Doctors will remove the tumor from his bladder, and construct him a new bladder.
Mitteis said all they're asking for is prayers and positive thoughts sent their way.