Pruitt, who joined Cartersville Fire Department in 2012, will hike a large section of the trail this summer to raise funds for fallen comrades.
“So, [in] 2010 I hiked the AT, got into the fire service and started thinking, ‘How can I give back to the fire service?’” the 25-year-old said. “I’ve been planning this hike, and the Georgia Fallen Firefighters Foundation is an organization that’s pretty new. They’re actually based in Euharlee. [Euharlee Mayor Dennis Thayer] is actually the founder of the Fallen Firefighters Foundation, so I got with him, told him what I was doing and we came up with Hike for the Fallen.”
Pruitt departs June 1 for a solo hike of almost 275 miles with hopes of raising $10,000.
“I’m going to go hike the long trail, which runs from the Massachusetts-Vermont border to the ... Vermont-Canada border. It’s 274 miles, and use [the hike] to kind of build awareness and support for the Georgia Fallen Firefighters Foundation,” he said. “We are going to try to raise $10,000. We’ve earmarked it for a couple of different things and I’m just going to go hike. So I’m going to do what I enjoy doing to give back to the career I love.”
The $10,000 is broken into two $5,000 programs. The organization hopes to establish a uniform loaner program and contribute to the Joey Turner Memorial Fund.
“… Say, small volunteer fire departments, they don’t have the resources we have here in Cartersville or even Bartow County or Cobb County. Say they experience a line-of-duty death, they want to do a proper funeral but they don’t have class A uniforms because they are volunteers, it’s a small town. Fallen Firefighters Foundation goes in with this uniform loaner program, outfits the entire department in class A uniforms at no charge for a funeral service,” Pruitt said. “… Joey Turner was a … volunteer firefighter at the state academy … in Forsyth ... He was down there doing a training drill and he passed away. When he died …, there was a really long period of time between his death and when the state and federal line-of-duty death benefits came in, and his family was struggling. So the Georgia Fallen Firefighters Foundation went in, raised a bunch of money, bought the mom and wife a car so they had a vehicle, paid the mortgage payment, car payments, paid bills, and when they finally got their funds in, the family gave some money back to the Georgia Fallen Firefighters Foundation.”
The avid outdoorsman and Boy Scout, who sports a tattoo on his upper arm of the Appalachian Trail, said giving back to those touched by the loss of a fellow firefighter is “a huge thing.”
“It’s not something that happens all the time but it’s a big deal for a firefighter to lose his life doing what he loves,” Pruitt said.
Fundraising for Hike for the Fallen will continue through May 1. Information may be found at www.facebook.com/hikeforthefallen, www.gofundme.com/hikeforthefallen or gafallenfirefighters.org. Hike for the Fallen T-shirts are available for $15 at www.booster.com/hikeforthefallen.