10/16/2013 8:45:00 AM Former CV resident Caward raises money for hotshot families
Chino Valley High alum Matt Caward, now a firefighter and chaplain with the Bernalillo County Fire Dept. in Albuquerque, N.M., explains how the hand-painted helmet raffle came into being, just before he presents a helmet to Brendan McDonough, the only surviving Granite Mountain Hotshot from the Yarnell Hill Fire. The men were attending a benefit banquet at Timís Toyota Center in Prescott Valley sponsored by Arizona wildlife and conservation groups. The banquet, raffles and auction raised more than $280,000 for families of the 19 Hotshots who died June 30.
Chino Valley High alumnus Matthew Caward experienced a bittersweet homecoming this past summer. Caward, Class of 1994, traveled from his home in Albuquerque, N.M., to help at a fundraiser for the fallen 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots' families.
When Caward learned of the death of 19 of 20 Granite Mountain Hotshots, he commissioned an artist to handpaint 25 memorial helmets. He presented one to lone survivor Brendan McDonough on Aug. 29 at a benefit banquet in Prescott Valley which sportsmen's groups and Arizona Game and Fish sponsored.
Each of the 19 families will receive one as well, and the remaining five are in a raffle to raise money for the families.
"Each helmet takes 15 hours to paint," he said. "We're hoping to sell 10,000 tickets and raise $250,000, and will draw in December."
Raffle tickets are $10 each.
Caward credits Chino Valley High's late baseball coach Tom Pratt for his desire to do community service, and for helping him obtain football and baseball scholarships to Sterling College in Kansas. Caward met his wife, Crystal, a vocal scholarship student, on the first day of school. He left college after a year to join the military, then returned to Chino Valley as the town's sports director from 1998-2000. He and Crystal married in Paulden and have three daughters.
Caward earned his fire certificate from Yavapai College and served the Chino Valley Fire Department for three years before the Bernalillo County (N.M.) Fire Department hired him in June 2003.
A full time firefighter now on the promotion list for lieutenant, Caward also became the Albuquerque-based department's first chaplain in its 50-year history.
"Now we have five chaplains - all volunteers," Caward said.
He said Bernalillo County is a 300-member department with five firefighters per shift at each of 13 stations, 24/7.
Caward's 94-year-old grandmother and many other relatives live in Chino Valley, and he looks forward to returning to visit them and attend his 20th class reunion next year.
To purchase helmet raffle tickets, visit: https://rafflecreator.com/pages/167/granite-mountain-hotshots-memorial-helmet.