Tom Steindler’s Making a Difference in Life of Paralyzed Man with Dreams of Firefighting

By: Andrew Rowe Last Updated: June 24, 2016

Tom-Steindlers-Making-a-Difference-in-Life-of-Paralyzed-Man-with-Dreams-of-FirefightingSeven years ago at the age of 16, Dylan Ferguson was hit by a car while driving his moped. This terrible accident left him a C2 quadriplegic and changed his life forever. Growing up, Dylan always wanted to be a firefighter and, over the last several months, his story reached more and more people throughout the internet and social media.

That’s where Valparaiso’s Tom Steindler became aware of Dylan, his story and his love for everything firefighter. As a firefighter, Steindler immediately started thinking about how to get in contact with Dylan and his family, and ways that he could help.

“It started out as a Facebook tag from my sister and she had mentioned that this young gentleman was a fanatic about firefighters and firefighting gear,” said Steindler.

He reached out and tried to contact Dylan’s family and after some correspondence between Steindler in Valparaiso and some friends of Dylan’s family in Dallas, Texas he was able to make contact with Dylan’s mother.

“She reached out, called me up and we talked for about two hours on the phone,” Steindler said. “I said, ‘You know I’d like to meet your son. I’m a fireman from Valparaiso and I really admire a young man like this.’”

When Steindler first met Dylan he took him a T-shirt and a Valparaiso Fire Department patch, and during that visit he got to know Dylan and his story.

“He’s just a very inspirational young man,” said Steindler. “It was really breathtaking to meet him, to hear his story and to hear about what he has given back to society as well.”

After their initial visit Steindler decided to put together some special firefighter gear that he thought Dylan would really appreciate so he coordinated another visit and made the trip down to Buffalo, Indiana.

“I gave him my rookie coat that I had from 20 years ago, my very first coat,” Steindler said. “I gave him one of my ‘Class-B’ shirts and I also got a helmet for him. We put his name on it and some special decals. He’s a big Bulls, Cubs, Blackhawks and Bears fan so we made all the decals for it. When I got there Channel 18 News was there so they caught me coming around the back of the house and presenting him those gifts.”

“We’ve stayed in touch. He’s just a wonderful young man. He takes every punch with authority. Life hasn’t stopped around him and he looks forward to the mail everyday because he’s getting patches from all over the country and all over the world. He’s gotten some from as far away as Germany, Russia and China so the story’s gone world-wide.”

Steindler is working to build on that attention and is hoping to open the story up to the national audience, possibly through popular network television shows like Ellen.

“Dylan and his family can’t leave their home for an extended period of time unless they’re going to Riley’s (Hospital) so they haven’t been on vacation in eight years,” Steindler said. “I haven’t had any luck yet but their ultimate goal is that they would love to see ‘Ground Zero’ in New York.”

“He’s a firefighter-guru and it’s a very special place that the family would love to visit so I’m trying to get the Ellen show to try, somehow and someway, to help me get them there. If I had the money I’d give it to him in a heartbeat but I’m hoping we can do something to make that happen.”

Dylan’s story, having happened near the Region, has really hit home for Steindler. He’s working hard to make something happen that will give Dylan and his family a special moment that might not have been possible otherwise.

“It’s been great to stay in touch with him,” Steindler said. “He’s really got his wits about him, I tell ya. The first time I met him he said, ‘So why do you have a beard if you’re a real fireman?’ I let him know that I had gotten injured and I’m on light duty, and he says, “Well I see your Department has a policy against hair on your head!’ I thought that was just great!”

Steindler, a 2nd generation fireman, followed in his father’s footsteps and takes pride in giving back whether it’s through the Valparaiso Fire Department or in the community.

“We might not be rushing into burning buildings everyday or saving a million lives but it’s just the fact that what we do is hopefully making a difference. I don’t want any praise or special recognition. It just becomes part of your lifestyle. It’s a real brotherhood and there’s a real bond there. It’s fun and it’s exciting, and it really keeps me going.”

“Dylan’s story reminded me how special life is and to never take anything for granted. You never know what tomorrow will bring. It gives me goosebumps to think about it. It’s terrible what happened to him but he’s really taken on what’s been thrown at him in life. He’s picked up the ball and he’s still playing so it’s great.”

Check out the video from WLFI Channel 18, when Steindler met with and presented Dylan with some special firefighter gear, here.