Kingston Fire's 7th man on the shift
KINGSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WOLF) -- If you visit the Kingston fire house on Friday afternoons, you'll be greeted by a friendly face.
Ryan Washko is an honorary member of the department, volunteering every week.
"Some days it's kind of slow, and some days it's kind of busy, but whenever Ryan comes around it's a good day. Cause we have fun with him," says Deputy Fire Chief Charles Bloom.
Ryan has down syndrome and autism, and had cervical fusion surgery in his neck after a car accident two years ago . But none of these factors keep him from dedicating himself to the team.
"He's become somebody that everybody looks up to for what he's dealt with and continues to grow through," firefighter/paramedic Greg Yeager says.
He helps out with work around the station, washing windows and taking inventory of the ambulance. His favorite thing do is folding towels - and give his buddies wet willies, which they give right back to him.
"He turned into one of the guys. He just busts us and pals around, does his thing and we do ours," says firefighter paramedic Charles Jaskulski.
He also takes inventory of the firefighters themselves.
"He has two eyes, two chests, one belly, two arms, two legs... one booty... what else do you need?" says Ryan, reading off his checklist for Deputy Chief Bloom.
But Ryan hasn't always been so outgoing with the guys, and at first people weren't sure how it would work since a lot can happen at the firehouse.
"I think there was a lot of fear of the unknown. We didn't know how he was going to react to all of us and how we were going to react to him at first. But it worked out," says Jaskulski.
"When Ryan first started he was kinda shy, didn't interact too much. He just kinda came in and hung out. But now he's truly one of the guys," Bloom says.
Part of the guys... and part of their family.
Ryan calls Deputy Chief Bloom his best bud.
"When he had surgery, when he came home, we met him at his house. When he went to his prom, we went up when he was in his tux. He came here and had pictures taken. It's kind of like everybody has another son with him around. We take care of him and he takes care of us."
And when Ryan isn't at the station, he listens to the scanner at home, and prays for his buddies going out on call.
And if Ryan ever has to miss a day. he makes sure to make it up another day of the week. He's looking forward to marching with his fire buddies in the Memorial Day parade later this month.