It's Happening: Bridgeport Fire Department and Ladder Truck 521 Deliver Joy to Two-Year-Old Maddox Mudrick

By Julie Perine on December 17, 2017 from It’s Happening via

In July of this year, I wrote about Heather Starkey Mudrick – a lifelong Bridgeport resident and dancer – who had taken over operations at Annabel Timms School of Ballet. The mother of four and United Hospital Center physical therapist was looking forward to the new chapter in her life.
Heather has three daughters from a previous marriage; all who share her love for dance. The family’s new studio, to be called Studio 9 Dance Academy, was an exciting venture; one for which they all shared a passion.
Now, just a few short months later, Heather faces another chapter in her life; a tragic one. Her husband Mark, the father of her two-year-old son Maddox, passed away suddenly at age 43. On Nov. 27 Mark suffered a seizure and subsequently fell, striking his head. He died the next day at UHC.
An eight-year member of the U.S. Navy, having achieved the rank of First Class Electronics Technician, Mark was buried with full military rites. With her family by her side – including her three daughters, three stepdaughters (Mark’s from a previous marriage) and Maddox, Heather received an American flag for her husband’s service.  
On Saturday, Dec. 9, the Mudricks’ little boy, Maddox, turned two years old. The Bridgeport Fire Department created a bright spot in the lives of these community members by making a surprise visit to the little boy’s birthday party.
Here’s how the story unfolded:
One of the last gifts Mark Mudrick bought his son Maddox was a toy truck – a shiny red fire engine. He plays with it all the time, said his Uncle Craig – Heather’s younger brother.
With little Maddox’s birthday coming up and under the very sad family circumstances, Craig and his wife Jill were trying to come up with something special.
“It was actually Jill’s idea. She said we should go down to the fire department and talk to the fireman; making the party a fireman theme,” he said.
Originally from Louisiana, Jill had known of her hometown fire department to make appearances under special circumstances and she thought maybe the Bridgeport department would do the same.
“So, we went down there and they immediately were on board,” Craig said. “There was no hesitation.”
Fire Chief Phil Hart and Craig thereafter exchanged texts, making plans for the surprise visit to the home of two-year old Maddox Mudrick, who was gathered with friends and family in celebration of his birthday.
Mid-day Saturday, Firefighters Mark Jeffries and Matt Reed made their appearance.
“We drove ladder truck 521 to the house, opened it all up and showed Maddox all the equipment – letting him sit in the driver’s seat and in the back,” Mark Jeffries said. “We gave out old-fashioned goody bags - which included little fireman’s hats – and gave them to everybody.”
The unit made a dramatic exit – blowing the horn and firing up the lights and siren.
In his year and a half with Bridgeport Fire Department, Saturday’s call was one of a kind, Mark Jeffries said. He was honored to be part of it all.
“It was a nice experience, to be able to put a smile on Maddox’s face after such a tragic event,” he said.
Chief Hart echoed those remarks.
“We were very honored to be asked to make this day very special for this little fellow,” he said.
Craig, a resident of Bridgeport, said what our fire department did Saturday was certainly something special. In addition to letting Maddox, his sisters and mom get inside the cabin to check it out, the firemen handed out probably 20 goody bags plus a gift basket for Maddox in which coloring books, crayons and other toys and novelties were tucked inside.
Craig and Jill plan to make a financial donation to the department to pay it forward, to keep the goodwill in action.
“Members of our community help each other,” he said. “We want to make sure over Christmastime to be used by our fire department and EMS.”
Heather said the fire department’s kind gesture is one of many she and her family have been blessed to receive in recent weeks. Her maternal grandmother passed just days before her husband. In fact, It was on the day of her grandmother’s funeral visitation that Mark fell.
“This is such an amazing community,” she said. “No words can express how touched I was that the community has been so supportive and caring during this tragic and unbelievable time in our lives. The Bridgeport Fire Department brought a smile to Maddox’s face when there have been so many tears shed the last 11 days before his second birthday. They helped make his day so special, despite the unimaginable circumstances.” 
Editor's Note: Photos are submitted. Photo taken at Mark Mudrick's funeral was taken by Rebecca Devono. 

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