PITTSFIELD, Mass .– Three local high school graduates have been awarded the ‘Iron Mike Polidoro Scholarship’ created in honor of former Pittsfield Fire Department Deputy Chief Michael Polidoro, who died March 30 after a long battle with the Lou Gehrig’s disease.
On Tuesday, a small ceremony was held at the Pittsfield Fire Department headquarters where the recipients received the scholarships. Polidoro’s friends and family gathered for the occasion.
“He was an icon of the Pittsfield and Massachusetts Fire Department,” said Fire Chief Thomas Sammons. “It’s great that the generosity of our community has poured out and we are able to do it.
The award is given to high school students in Berkshire County who wish to pursue careers in the fields of firefighting, law enforcement or emergency health services. It was created by his wife Donna and other family members to carry on his legacy among the younger generations.
Madison Puppolo of Hoosac Valley High School, Conor Burt of Wahconah Regional High School and Aaron Cassavant of Pittsfield High School each received $ 2,000 for their college education in honor of the man who was a inspiration for many.
Puppolo will study criminal justice and play softball at Herkimer College in New York, Burt will study criminal justice at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire, and Cassavant will study fire science at Berkshire Community College.
Polidoro served in the department for 28 years and continued to help when possible. He had been a member of the region’s hazardous materials team and had spent time at the World Trade Center during post-9/11 recovery operations and had volunteered following other disasters, including the Hurricane Katrina.
He retired in 2017 after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurodegenerative disease often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. In 2019, Engine 6 was dedicated to Polidoro and renamed “Poly’s Pride”.
After being diagnosed with ALS, he partnered with Lee’s Chief Constable Jeffery Roosa, who also has ALS and retired earlier this year, to raise funds and raise awareness about the disease through ‘ALS Arrest and Extinction’ events. A 2019 event at Lenox raised $ 50,000.
Between various fundraisers, the department was able to raise approximately $ 20,000 for the scholarship fund. One of them was a crossfit fundraiser hosted by Pittsfield firefighter Jamie Law, owner of Crossfit Pittsfield.
“We were able to develop a training that involved some numbers for his career,” Law said. “And when we tried to raise so much money to go to a local legend, I think they took the opportunity and were able to do this.”
Next year, the Iron Mike Polidoro Scholarships will be awarded to two senior graduates and two Pittsfield firefighters for their career advancement.
Starting in the fall, the Massachusetts Association of Hazardous Materials also recognizes Polidoro by naming an award in his honor for his accomplishments in the HAZMAT department.
Members of the Pittsfield Fire Department said Polidoro’s depth of character is incredible between being knowledgeable, hardworking and caring.
Key words: ALS, fire department,