Cancer-fighting firefighter receives support from his buddies and the community

Garrett Reiser is a Demorest, GA, firefighter who was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. His firehouse buddies are rallying around him, trying to help ease the financial stress on him and his family. (Facebook)

Garrett Reiser is a firefighter. It’s a title you don’t come by easily. It requires hours of vigorous training to get certified and nerves of steel to run into places others are fleeing. Firefighters know how to deal with threats; their lives and the lives of others depend on it. But when that threat is internal – a disease that no one saw coming – it can take them to their knees.

That’s where Demorest Fire Capt. Payton Cagle found himself recently upon learning that his firefighting partner and buddy Garrett Reiser has stage 4 brain cancer.

“At 3 in the morning when his mom called me, it was like a bad dream. After I straightened up and got my mind right, I asked him ‘How are you?’ He said, ‘Man, I’m not worrying about myself.’ He’s worried about everybody else. That’s the kind of guy he is.”

Shocking diagnosis

On June 21, doctors diagnosed Garrett with a high-grade glioma. Since then, he’s undergone surgery. Cagle says the doctors removed 90% of the tumor but expect it to return. Garrett, or “Gar Bear” as his friends call him, is only 22.

“It’s been a shock to everybody,” Cagle says.

Jacob Roy is another firefighting buddy who works in Baldwin. He learned of Garrett’s diagnosis through Cagle. “We at Baldwin just felt the need to do something,” he says.

And they are.

Roy is organizing a bass fishing tournament the Baldwin Fire Department will host on August 27th to raise money for Garrett and his family. It’s a no payout tournament; all the money raised will go directly to them.

“Every bit of money that’s made goes straight to his family to help with bills or anything that they need help with,” says Roy.

Tournament and donation details

The bass tournament will be held at Lake Hartwell. Since this story first ran, organizers say they’ve received a lot of interest in the tournament; so much so, that they’ve had to move it from its original location. Now, instead of the Poplar Springs boat ramp on Lake Hartwell, the tournament will be held at the mega ramp at Tugaloo State Park in Lavonia. The ramp is located just past the park guard shack at 1763 Tugaloo State Park Road.

Now with the new location, Roy says “There’s always room for more!”

The first place winner will get a trophy and the second place finisher a plaque. The entry fee is $70 per boat. Roy’s looking for businesses to donate raffle items for the event. He hopes to raise at least $1,000, knowing that Garrett would do the same if the tables were turned.

“He’s a really good kid,” says Roy. “He’d give the shirt off his back to anybody.”

Garrett Reiser’s not back at work yet; he’s still weak from surgery and recovering. When he does return, it will likely just be for a few shifts – long enough for a ‘final hoorah,’ Cagle says. His prognosis is bleak, but that hasn’t stopped him.

“When they had the surgery it was a 50/50 shot of him coming out alive and a 50/50 shot of him walking again. He’s done both. He’s resilient,” says Capt. Cagle.

In addition to the fishing tournament, the Demorest Fire Department is holding a raffle. Anyone interested in donating may contact the department directly at (706) 754-7563.

To sign up for the bass fishing tournament or to contribute raffle items, call Jacob Roy at 706-768-8503.

This article has been updated to include the new location for the bass tournament fundraiser

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