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Pay it Forward: A Garland Firefighter's Story

In December 2012, Devon Colbert was a career firefighter for the Garland Fire Department and a volunteer firefighter in Rockwall. Just a few weeks before Christmas, a serious car crash left Devon paralyzed from the chest down. Doctors told him he would never walk or lift his arms again, which pushed Devon to launch into physical therapy with grit and determination.

“My team with the Garland Fire Department covered my shifts so that I could continue to take care of my family,” said Devon. “Both the Garland and Rockwall departments raised money to help with physical therapy and other needs. I don’t know where I would be without this extended family.”

The group organized several fundraisers to help the Colbert family meet their financial needs during Devon’s recovery. In 2013, the Garland Firefighters Association worked with the Rockwall volunteer firefighters to organize a black tie fundraiser, the Firefighters Ball, which was a huge success.

The Colbert family graciously accepted the support; however, they wanted to pay it forward and help other firefighter families who might find themselves in similar circumstances. As Devon recovered, his wife, Emily, turned her focus to establishing a way to assist families facing financial conflict brought on by illness, injury or other circumstances. She partnered with friends and colleagues to make the Firefighters Ball an annual event, which led to the creation of The Colbert Project and its mission: No Brother Battles Alone.

Each year, dozens of businesses and organizations donate silent auction items and financial contributions to the Firefighters Ball. Proceeds from the silent auction and ticket sales are used to support firefighters and their families living in the Metroplex. In 2014, The Colbert Project selected Dallas firefighter Jeff Patterson, who was badly burned while on duty, to receive funds raised by the organization. In 2015, the proceeds assisted another Dallas firefighter, Tracy Beard, who is battling ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

According to Devon and Emily, “It is our own trials and hardships that continue to drive us as a family to be that smile, that hug and God’s word to others during their own hardships. As we continue to grow, our mission is just that.”

In October 2014, Devon’s determination and support paid off, as he returned to the Garland Fire Department in a full-time administrative position with the Fire Marshal’s office.

The next Firefighters Ball and fundraiser will be held in August 2016. For details about the event and to learn more about The Colbert Project, visit TheColbertProject.org.