Hero of the Month
Mark Rodriguez

Mark Rodriguez is an engineer for the Orange County Fire Authority. He has the job every boy, young and old, would love to have, driving that big red fire engine. Many consider him a hero every day because of his occupation, but really he is a hero because he is a tremendous supporter of the BAHBAD Foundation's efforts. Mark and his family were friends of Evans before his diagnosis. They knew Evan as a fun-loving, vivacious, rambunctious boy that ruled the pool deck one day, then was fighting for his life the next. Mark shares Evan's story with everyone that will listen and has provided many opportunities in his communities to educate and raise awareness to the need of donors of all capacities. Mark has run donor drives, including hosting one at his fire station during their "Open House", as well as providing us with the opportunity to do "group education and swabbing" for his fire academy classes at Santa Ana Community College. His wife Elizabeth is also a member of Evan's Entourage, volunteering at donor drives on numerous occasions and helping make the annual Evan Cousineau Cup water polo tournament a success. Thank you Mark and family for being "our Heroes". Humbling words from our HERO.... Well, where do I begin? I really don’t know how to talk about myself. I think I’m just a regular guy who does put a lot of heart in things I truly believe in. I met Gina and her family through our kids playing and chasing each other around on the pool deck at so many water polo practices. “Mini boy”, that is what my daughter Jessica would call Evan as they chased each other around the deck, while their coaches were yelling at them to “walk”. They never listened as their carefree hearts, filled with joy, made their little feet move faster. I’ve worked for Orange County Fire Authority for about 23 years. I have the fun job of driving the fire engine. I get to make all the noise I want and blast through the traffic intersection. Well, I can’t say work; it’s really my hobby, my passion. And I have to admit my family has taken a back seat when the job calls and needs my help. They know it gives me a sense of self worth. I have always wanted to be a firefighter since I was a little boy. I am also a college instructor teaching future firefighter hopefuls. I never thought I would continue with teaching for such a long time. But thinking about it, I am approaching my tenth year. Time is my enemy. I must confess, I never thought I would share such details with others; really I’m a private spirit. I find solace in my spirit by running. At times I have so much energy I shake or never find sleep. So I run. I’m sure you have seen others run along the roadside, but I’m not that type of runner. When I run, I feel every cell burst with energy, I run hard. I run as fast as I can, and as far as I can. I run with every fiber of my being working to its maximum. The guys at work call it my “angry running” and they give me my space. The endorphins flowing like white water rapids and I can feel the splashing. This takes me deep into my soul reflecting and preparing. I often think of my kids in this time warp and dwell on the small events. Like my daughters hair flowing like a flag in the wind. Dwelling about the smiles and happy faces of Mini Boy and Jessica, aka Mini Girl, my beautiful daughter, pushing their bodies through the water as they swim. My heavy, deep exhale only equals my inhale as my run focus me on the memories of Evan. It’s my way of keeping his memory from fading away as the enemy, time, tries to steal it. My legs begin to burn and my lungs start to fall short of breath to carry me forward. The stage curtain gentle falls over my memories of Evan. I can not understand why some choose not to become a donor so others may see another sunrise or feel the air rush into themselves as I savor the cool air enter me from a strong run. I pray others don’t need to work as hard as I do to remember the small details. It’s not pleasant, my running or losing those special moments in my life. But, I do it. It’s my way of pressing forward and pressing on. My life’s time line is growing shorter, there are so many in need of a donor. There are too many memories fading away about others who never found a match. When you get an email from Mark, his signature line has the following words to live by: Your heart will fire up your ideas, Your ideas will power your works, Your works will lead others to follow, Challenge Yourself! Others will be inspired!
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