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Fundraiser Announced for Morongo Fire Chief; Veteran Firefighter Diagnosed With ALS

BANNING, Calif., Oct. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Friends of Morongo fire chief Phil Kelleher are burning up the phone lines and Internet to help raise funds for him and his family. Widely known and respected in the community, Kelleher was recently diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord resulting in muscle weakness and atrophy. Although the cause of ALS is not completely understood, the last decade has brought a wealth of new scientific understanding about the disease that provides hope for the future.

In a joint effort, Morongo battalion chief Tim Beadle, fire captain Chris Barden, staff assistant Deb Mathews and former colleagues at Riverside Community College Holly Bow and Christy Pollard along with local firefighters and friends, have organized a fundraiser motorcycle ride and barbecue lunch for Saturday, October 21st.

Registration for the ride will begin at 8:00 a.m. at the Ben Clark Regional Training Center, 3423 Davis Avenue in Riverside. The ride will set out at 9:30 a.m. and conclude at the old Morongo casino parking lot on the east side of the building at 49750 Seminole Drive. Friends and non-riders can join the barbecue that starts at 11:30 a.m.

There will be free t-shirts for all riders and t-shirts can also be purchased for $10 each.

Anyone interested in participating can go to

Tickets for the motorcycle ride are $50 per person and $10 for passenger riders. Luncheon tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids.

There will be raffle tickets for prizes including 10 spa weekend getaways at Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa which provide a night at the resort and spa treatments for two; a $100 gaming certificate for casino play; a signed Frankie Valli framed photo and two tickets to the Frankie Valli spring concert to be held at MCRS; an autographed Oscar de la Hoya plaque with photo and boxing stats and two tickets to the November boxing match at MCRS; and a $100 dinner certificate for the casino's penthouse restaurant Cielo. There will also be music, firefighting and police displays, and entertainment for children. Raffle tickets can be purchased for $1 per ticket or $20 for 25 tickets.

Checks should be made payable to "Citizens Business Bank for the benefit of Phil Kelleher". Donations by check can also be mailed to Citizens Business Bank to the attention of Mary Wilson, Vice President, Citizens Business Bank, 301 Vanderbilt Way, San Bernardino, CA 92408 (909) 888-6363.

The Morongo tribe is donating $15,000 to the Citizens Bank Kelleher fund and tribal council members will be cooking barbecue for the gathering.

"Phil Kelleher has been an outstanding addition to our staff since joining us and when he told us the news of his ALS diagnosis, we wanted to show our support immediately," said Morongo tribal chairman Robert Martin. "Phil, in fact, is very proud that the Morongo firefighting team was one of the first fire departments on the scene during last year's Esperanza fire. We wanted our response to Phil to be just as fast."

Kelleher, who joined Morongo in 2006, oversees the Morongo Indian Reservation fire department, which includes a staff of 20 firefighters responsible for protecting 110 square miles of the reservation land as well as the residential community, tribal enterprises and the 27-story, 44-acre casino. Prior to his appointment as Morongo fire chief, Kelleher was program director for the Fire Technology/Fire Academy with the Riverside Community College; a California Department of Forestry firefighter; and firefighter and medic for the city of Banning.

He spent eight years training and educating young firefighters at the Ben Clark Regional Training Center. With close to two decades of professional firefighting service to the region, Kelleher, 39, has developed a wide community and friends and colleagues who are now organizing to raise funds for his medical expenses and his children's' college funds.

Kelleher, his wife Missy, and their son Brett, age 11, and daughter Tyler, age 9, live in Cherry Valley where they have a 1.5 acre property. Since May of last year, they have been living in a fifth-wheel trailer while working on construction of a new house. They moved his wife's mother on to the property in a small existing house that was remodeled for her.

Kelleher is a proud dad who readily discusses his kids' accomplishments.

"My son Brett is a professional gymnast and went all the way to regionals this year in Honolulu and did very well. My daughter Tyler is a dancer. We travel all over Southern California with her and she recently competed at Disneyland and took first place in her category," he said.

However he is almost equally devoted to his firefighting family.

"Trust is the glue that bonds firefighters. When things go crazy, you know you can rely on that," Kelleher said once in an interview.

Anyone with questions on the event or how to donate can call Battalion Chief Tim Beadle at 951-849-4697.

For further information on ALS, you can go online to the ALS Association at

SOURCE Waltona Manion
Copyright©2007 PR Newswire.
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