Site logo

Retired Waldens Creek firefighter battles lung cancer with help of his department

by: Ella Wales

Posted: Aug 16, 2023 / 09:45 PM EDT

Updated: Aug 16, 2023 / 11:11 PM EDT

SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A retired Waldens Creek volunteer firefighter has been diagnosed with stage three adenocarcinoma lung cancer.

Kenny Helton served as a volunteer firefighter for 12 years at the department, and has stayed on as support staff since retiring. He said he became a firefighter for a simple reason.

“The biggest part of it is because I love my community and I want to support it,” he said.

According to him, his diagnosis has only made his love for the community stronger, but this news isn’t his first brush with cancer.

“Thirty years ago, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and I went through the radiation and chemo and surgery, and it made a big toll on my life, made me such a better person in my opinion, because I want to help people now,” he said.

Aside from his wife Pam, who he calls his rock, he said those at the fire department have been his biggest supporters.

“One hurts, they all hurt,” he said. “I’m not in this alone. They’re all right here beside me and they would do anything in the world to help me, whatever it takes.”

Helton described Assistant Chief Steve Schmidt as an angel, after he helped put together an online fundraiser to help with medical bills.

“When our community needs us, we help them, when there’s an issue within the department itself, we help our own folks as well,” Schmidt said.

Despite retiring, Schmidt said Helton has remained vital to the department.

“Kenny has always been very instrumental in helping us here, the last one was with the Hatcher Mountain fires, he was pretty much here the entire time, working with the vendors, working with the staff that was here, getting water out to the folks in the field. It was a good situation for everybody.”

Surgery and radiation aren’t an option this time for Helton, so he’ll be undergoing chemo again. However, he assured everyone, he’ll be okay.

“Never take anything for granted because today could be your last day here on this earth,” he said.

Two of Helton’s brothers also worked at the department. The building is dedicated in honor to his brother Larry “Gomer” Helton, who served for 21 years.

In addition to collecting donations through the online fundraiser, the fire department plans to have a garage sale with proceeds going to Helton and his wife. The sale will be held at the Waldens Creek Fire Department on Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The fire department is located at 2828 Goose Gap Road in Sevierville.