Wheeler wins Matthew Phillips award

BROADALBIN – A young Saratoga County firefighter was named the recipient of the Matthew W. Phillips Memorial Award at a fundraiser Saturday at the Broadalbin VFW Post 8690.

Christinea Ann Wheeler of the Mechanicville Volunteer Fire Department received a check.

The event is named after Phillips – a fourth-generation volunteer firefighter from the area who lost his life in a motorcycle accident on July 5, 2014. The fundraiser for Fulton and Saratoga counties’ firefighters was first held two years ago in Rotterdam.

“He was family-oriented, outgoing and dedicated,” said event organizer John Lesniewski, who was Phillips’ uncle.

The award in Phillips’ name was given at the 2016 Matthew W. Phillips Memorial Benefit at the post home.

Saturday’s fundraiser event included food, cash bar, entertainment by the Weaver Brothers, basket raffles and other drawings. A fund was established in his honor and proceeds from Saturday’s basket raffle went to the Matthew W. Phillips Memorial Award Fund.

According to Lesniewski, Wheeler won an award given to an area volunteer firefighter in good standing who is graduating from high school from either Fulton or Saratoga counties. He said the competition was stiff.

“The criteria was phenomenal and the response was good,” Lesniewski said.

Lesniewski said there were three runners-up: second runnerup – Connor W. Krueger of the Maple Avenue Volunteer Fire Department; third runnerup – Dylan J. Sweet of the Mayfield Volunteer Fire Department; and fourth runnerup – Miranda L. Koster of the Burnt Hills Volunteer Fire Department.

Lesniewski said that his nephew at the age of 14 joined Explorer Post 5012 with the Perth Volunteer Fire Company. He participated in many of the training opportunities that were available to him and earned the rank of Eagle Scout by hosting a community fire safety day at the fire station.

Phillips joined the Providence Volunteer Fire Department, where his father was the chief and quickly moved up the ranks with his drive and determination, event organizers said. At 22, he was elected captain.

He had been employed by the Saratoga County Highway Department at the time of his death.

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