Kemps give thankful donation to Annawan-Alba Fire Dept.

Lisa Depies GateHouse Media Illinois

Steve and Jodie Kemp of Chillicothe made a surprise donation to the Annawan-Alba Fire Department Sept. 30 as a thank you to the firefighters for their actions last Memorial Day weekend.

The Kemps spent the holiday weekend camping at the Geneseo Campground with their 18-month old black Labrador dogs Abby and Daisy.

By the holiday on Monday, the Kemps and their dogs were eastbound on Interstate 80, heading home to Chillicothe.

Jodie was behind the wheel of the couple’s truck when a vehicle pulled in front, cutting her off. Reacting to the incident caused the couple’s vehicle to roll.

“The truck and camper rolled together the first time, then the camper came unhitched and the truck rolled another three times,” said Jodie.

Both she and her husband were injured in the accident. Annawan-Alba firefighters had to cut Steve free from the truck.

The accident killed the couple’s dog, Daisy, while their other dog, Abby, was frightened and fled from the scene.

Neither Jodie nor Steve were aware of what had happened to their canine companions.

Jodie was transported to Illini Hospital in Silvis, while Steve was taken to Hammond-Henry Hospital in Geneseo before being transferred to Genesis Medical Center in Davenport, Iowa.

“I didn’t know that Daisy was dead and Abby was missing until I was at the hospital,” said Jodie.

For the next 26 hours, the Kemps’ family and friends were joined by Annawan residents in a search for Abby.

“The people from Annawan really stepped up and came out trying to help find our dog,” said Jodie.

Though she’d been released from the hospital, Jodie was in no shape to assist with the search, but that wasn’t going to stop her.

“I was in the ICU (visiting Steve) and planning to go and help with the search when I got a phone call,” remembers Jodie.

At the other end of the phone, Jodie’s sister said she could see Abby, but couldn’t get to her. “She told me to start hollering,” said Jodie.

From the ICU unit at Genesis in Davenport, Jodie started yelling down the phone line for Abby.

“The ICU nurses were all at the desk trying to figure out what was happening,” said Jodie.

Her calling worked and Abby came to the rescuers.

“They found her by the Hennepin Canal. She wasn’t injured. All she had was a tiny cut between her eyes and one on her leg,” said Jodie.

In the hospital bed, Steve was awake and aware of the situation.

“I was ecstatic and in tears when I heard they’d found Abby,” he said. “It just turned a very bad situation into something a little bit positive. I just don’t think I could have dealt with losing both dogs.”

Steve spent nearly two weeks in the hospital before returning home to Chillicothe, but, despite being at home, the couple kept the Annawan-Alba Fire Department and Annawan residents in their thoughts.

“We wanted to do something to thank them,” he said.

Steve specifically wanted a donation that each firefighter could personally use. In need of ideas, he contacted the Chillicothe Fire Department.

“They’re a volunteer-department also, so I asked them what type of things they could use and they suggested helmet lights,” said Steve.

While researching helmet lights online, Steve discovered the California-based Fox Fury company.

“I asked them about buying helmet lights in bulk, and they wanted to know why, so I told them our story,” said Steve.

After hearing about the Kemps, officials with Fox Fury decided to match the couple’s donation, which allowed the Chillicothe pair to spend $2,300 to purchase 22 helmet lights and four additional pocket floodlights.

“Because Annawan is right on the interstate, we thought they might be a department that responds to a lot of accident calls on the highway,” said Steve.

In addition to a spotlight in the front of the helmet, each light contains a flashing red-light on the back of the helmet to alert drivers’ to the firefighters’ locations.

“Nothing’s darker than being in the middle of the interstate in the middle of the night,” said Annawan firefighter Colin DeVrieze.

“It means a lot to us to be able to help and try and pay it forward,” said Steve. “If it helps the guys just save one person’s life, it will be perfect.”

While donating the lights, the Kemps were joined at the Annawan-Alba Fire Station by their dog Abby and their new canine, Sadie.

Sadie was adopted just down the road from Annawan at the Henry County Humane Society shelter in Kewanee.

“We hadn’t planned to come back to Henry County to adopt (another dog). It was the weirdest thing and it just worked out,” said Jodie.