|Harrison Walls has volunteered with the Boalsburg Volunteer Fire Company since he was 16.|
Throughout the summer, we're checking in with several returning student-athletes who are partaking in unique experiences relating to student research or internships. Our third profile highlights Harrison Walls, a senior catcher from the baseball team.
Walls' summer experience isn't one you typically think of as a college student, but it's something near and dear to his heart. As a 16-year-old, Walls joined the Boalsburg Volunteer Fire Company in Boalsburg, Pa., and he's served as a volunteer firefighter with the company ever since.
"Growing up, I knew I always wanted to be a firefighter," said Walls, who was also given the nickname 'Boots' by his friends after regularly being seen out and about his childhood neighborhood in rubber boots.
After joining the company, Walls spent nearly 200 hours learning the ropes through the essentials of firefighting course with most of the practical training taking place at the fire training site in Centre County.
On the job, Walls, and the company, respond to a multitude of calls ranging from structure fires, vehicle crashes, search and rescue operations, forest fires, specialized rescues, and medical assists.
"It's life changing to know that when the pager goes off, you have the ability to save peoples' lives," summed up Walls. "It doesn't matter whether the call comes at 2 a.m. or 2 p.m., once our pagers go off, it's up to us to head to the scene and save lives. Knowing I can bring joy to people who have just experienced one of the worst crises is one of the cooler parts of the job."
Now that he's seasonal, Walls has extra hurdles to maintain his status as a volunteer firefighter due to the required number of calls per year each member of the company is required to respond to. While the large volume of calls is unfortunate given the numerous emergency situations that arise, Walls' dedication is second-to-none, as the rising senior has exceeded the requirement each year he's been a student at the College.
Given volunteer companies typically don't have the monetary resources many big-city departments have, fundraising is another big aspect of the job. Boalsburg's company hosts a carnival each year with the proceeds going towards updating the equipment. Also, despite being a volunteer operation, the company performs tasks like filling swimming pools, hoagie sales, and stopping by birthday parties to help raise funds.
"The people that deserve all the praise are the volunteer firefighters who have full-time jobs and families, as they sacrifice their time as a firefighter, and receive no compensation," stated Walls. "All the training and calls that we go on take up a lot of time, and these men and women are taking time away from their family to go help people in need.
"Please make an effort to support your local fire department," wrapped up Walls. "They sacrifice a lot to do their jobs, and (the volunteer departments) do it for free. I wouldn't trade this opportunity for anything in the world."