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Lifestyle & Human Interest

Age 7 Girl Battling Deadly, Incurable Condition Made Honorary Firefighter: 'This Was My Dream All Along'

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Plenty of children are in awe of firetrucks and firemen. The lights, the sounds, the excitement, the heroism — all of it dazzles young hopefuls.

Hanford Fire Department Chief Steve Pendergrass has no doubt met many of these young men and women who are eager to join the cause and has given them words of encouragement.

When he met the daughter of Councilwoman Amanda Saltray, 7-year-old Penny Saltray, who expressed her eagerness to become a firefighter, he told her that if she worked hard then one day she could become one.

What Pendergrass didn’t know was that Penny has been fighting for her life, suffering from an incurable condition, and in reality — no matter how hard she works — becoming a firefighter simply isn’t in the cards for her.

After learning this sad truth, Pendergrass decided to do something for Penny to help her achieve her goals. On Tuesday, at a well-attended ceremony, Penny was sworn in as an honorary firefighter.

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“She doesn’t deserve the life she’s been dealt, and for one moment on one day she got to experience something so good,” Amanda Saltray told The Hanford Sentinel. “It’s so amazing because she’s such a beautiful little girl, with such a beautiful, bright spirit, no matter what happens.

“It’s not possible for Penny to be a firefighter, but this is our way around. We got to see people come together, who don’t always get along, and smile. She brought everyone together and brought peace. It’s amazing. We’re very thankful.”

Penny was understandably excited to be made a firefighter. She also was given gear and badges to complete the look.

“This was my dream all along and my dream has come true by the firefighters,” the 7-year-old said.

Penny’s ceremony begins at the five-minute mark in the video below. Her swearing-in begins at the nine-minute mark.

On Friday morning, the California-based fire department had another treat in store: At 11:00 a.m., they had a line-up and inspection that Penny was part of, and everyone was invited to celebrate the newest honorary firefighter.

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Amanda Saltray shared the story on her personal Facebook page, again thanking those involved in making a very special memory for her daughter.

“Yesterday, was a blessing beyond measure!” she wrote. “As most of you know Penny has had a hard life and the restrictions that her health condition poses on her, prevent her from enjoying the everyday things that most people take for granted. More times than we can count Penny’s life has been in jeopardy but she is a survivor and our reliance and our trust in the Lord has seen us through the toughest of times.

“Thank you to all who have been lifting her up in prayer. God is good! I am so grateful to live in this awesome community that came together as a joint effort to recognize the struggles and challenges that my Penny has had to endure and will continue to endure.”

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking