Austin Claymon combines community project with passion for firefighting
By Mark Ambrogi
Ever since Austin Claymon can remember, he has loved fire trucks and emergency response vehicles.
In fact, the Midwest Academy eighth-grader has a desire to be a fire fighter someday.
So when it came time for Austin to do his community service project as part of his bar mitzvah, he wondered how could he help the fire department. Austin and his father, Matthew Claymon, met with Carmel Fire Chief Matt Hoffman in the spring.
“This is the first time we had someone come in on their own and say I’d like to do this kind of drive for kids who might be scared and provide this kind of comfort,” Hoffman said. “It was a brilliant idea and he did an outstanding job.”
Included in his bar mitzvah invitation was a request from Austin that guests bring a stuffed animal or Nerf football or basketball toys to donate to the fire department.
Austin’s guests from his September bar mitzvah came through with dozens of stuffed animals and toys, and some cash donations, for the fire department. Austin, who turned 14 on Aug. 7, presented it to Hoffman on Oct. 27.
Hoffman said the stuffed animals provide comfort to children who might be injured or scared riding in the ambulance.
“He’s a very good-natured person that always wants to help people,” Claymon said of his son. “It’s great being able to combine being a good person and something he has a passion for. Maybe doing these things as a young man will make him more and more involved with helping people and maybe learning more about a career that might interest him.”
Claymon said he was thankful to Hoffman and Carmel.
“It’s pretty impressive that in a community like this you can reach out to the leader of the community and they will openly give you lots of their time,” Claymon said. “They’ve been wonderful to work with and it’s a great reflection on Carmel and why we live in Carmel. People are accessible.”
Austin has had several birthday parties at some kind of emergency response facility.
Austin, shy by nature, asked Hoffman a series of prepared questions on how to become a firefighter. Although the state minimum is a high school degree, Hoffman informed Austin those with the best chance of getting a job have a four-year college degree. Firefighters also have to be physically agile and strong enough to climb stairs with heavy pack on their backs, raise ladders and swing sledgehammers.
“They have to be able to drag a dummy that weighs 185 pounds, so it would be like dragging a person from a house fire,” Hoffman said. “So you have to be in good physical shape.”
Austin said he is eager to help with the Carmel Fire Department’s food basket drive in December. Hoffman said the department receives food donations from companies.
“Some of the grocery stores donate gallons of milks, turkeys and loaves of bread and eggs,” Hoffman said. “We get together with the Boy Scouts and everyone on the list gets free boxes of food. We deliver food to people who need help over the holidays.”
His father said Austin is interested in any way he can continue to help Hoffman and the fire department.
“Austin knows it has been very special to be able to spend time with such an important person and learn more about the profession he so much wants to be associated with,” Claymon said.
Hoffman provided a television tip to Austin Claymon for his viewing pleasure.
Hoffman suggested Austin watch reruns of “Emergency!,” the TV series about the Los Angeles Fire Department that ran from 1972 to 1979.
Hoffman has renewed his love for the show by watching it on WTHR-13.3. When Hoffman got rid of cable two months ago, he learned that channel carried his favorite show.
“When I was a kid, I watched and that’s the whole reason I’m doing my job,” Hoffman said. “I wanted to be John Gage, one of the characters. Great show. I’m now almost 48 years old and I try to watch it every night when I get home. It hasn’t changed. If you get a chance, watch it. Those were my heroes growing up. I got lucky enough I got to do it.”
What’s a bar mitzvah?
Bar mitzvah is the coming of age ceremony in the Jewish religion. When a boy reaches 13, he is recognized as being an adult in the eyes of the religion and morally responsible for his own actions. The boy also has completed a course of study in Judaism, which takes years of Hebrew schooling, tutoring and practice. The words “bar mitzvah” translate to “son of commandment””
Bat mitzvah is ceremony for girls who have reached the age of 12.
Austin’s sister Lily, 12, and a Creekside Middle School seventh grader, celebrated her bat mitzvah at the same time as Austin on Sept. 6. When the bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah are held together, it is called a b’nai mitzvah.
Lily’s community project was raising donations for Indiana Canine Assistant Network, whose mission is to train and place assistance dogs with persons of disabilities. Per her requests, guests donated dog toys and treats.