By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Northborough Fire Department Captain Robert Theve received recognition from the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services and its Statewide Advisory Council at a State House celebration March 22. The award was presented to those in the state who have been instrumental in providing opportunities to individuals to be fully accepted, engaged and active participants in all aspects of community life.
Captain Theve was nominated by Bonnie Bryce, whose 22-year-old son Bryce Grenier has been volunteering one day a week at the Northborough Fire Department since November and is responsible for light custodial work.
Firefighters are always doing extraordinary things, but Bonnie felt that Captain Theve went beyond extraordinary.
Bryce has cognitive impairments and recently transitioned into adult services after attending Riverview School in Sandwich. After several failed attempts to secure residential placement on Cape Cod, Bonnie decided to bring Bryce back home.
“This was a very difficult transition for Bryce,” she said. “We had been talking about his life on the Cape with his friends for years. We needed something powerful and compelling to make him feel like he was part of something very special.”
Bryce always had a passion for fire stations and firefighters and his dream was to become a firefighter.
“Parents of special needs children are taught to think creatively when helping their children attempt to fulfill their dream,” said Bonnie.
With this in mind, she approached Theve about the possibility of Bryce volunteering at the fire station.
“Instead of saying ‘no’ or coming up with a hundred reasons why it may not work, he was determined to make it work,” she said.
Although Theve spearheaded the opportunity for Bryce and was the recipient of the award, Bonnie said every member of the department was fully supportive, including Chief David Parenti, and they all deserve the credit.
“It was an entire team of people working together to make Bryce’s dream come true,” said Bonnie. “Telling Bryce that he could work at the Northborough Fire Department was truly one of the most unforgettable moments in my life.”
Parenti said it was a wonderful awards ceremony and that Theve was shocked when notified of the award. He encourages other organizations to offer this type of opportunity because the impact is positive for everyone involved.
“I think it has been better for us than for Bryce,” Parenti said. “You can’t have a bad day when Bryce is here. He’s a ray of sunshine and great to be around.”
Bryce has a job coach who teaches the skills needed for the volunteer position and supervises his work. The goal is for Bryce to be able to use these skills for future employment opportunities.
Bonnie has wisdom for other parents of special needs children.
“Never give up,” she said. “You never know the possibilities. It’s an endless effort for sure. Seeing Bryce flourish and so happy – it’s what it’s all about. We want to see our kids productive. Everyone needs meaning and purpose in their life.”