Elon sophomore fundraising for fellow firefighter

Nick Cianciara plans to run three miles in his full turnout gear on Dec. 14, 2013, to raise money for a firefighter stricken with a brain tumor.

By Sarah Mulnick ’17

Elon University’s mission statement declares a commitment to “preparing students to be global citizens and informed leaders motivated by concern for the common good.” For Elon sophomore Nick Cianciara, this takes the form of raising funds to help a fellow firefighter in need.

Evan Holtz has worked as a dispatcher for Country Hills Volunteer Fire Company in Bridgewater, N.J., a volunteer emergency medical technician and an EMT for a rescue squad and medical center prior to being diagnosed with a brain tumor earlier this year. A surgery removed 97 percent of the tumor, according to the Facebook page that was set up to help track his recovery, but Holtz was left out of work for months.

Cianciara, a volunteer firefighter from a town near Holtz’s, wants to help relieve the medical expenses associated with both the intrusive surgery and the recovery and physical therapy that came afterward. On Dec. 14, he plans to run three miles in his full firefighting gear – from one New Jersey firehouse to another. 

Cianciara set a fundraising goal of $2,500. As of Dec. 10, he’d raised more than $2,600 for the recovery fund, and his efforts have drawn the attention of media in New Jersey.

Though Cianciara has never met Holtz, he cites a feeling of camaraderie as the motivation for his fundraising efforts. “It is like a brotherhood,” he said, “being firefighters, volunteer firefighters. You work together, and it’s a great feeling. It definitely creates a bond.”

He and Holtz will meet for the first time after the Saturday run.

Cianciara says he was inspired to become volunteer firefighter in the first grade as he watched his hometown fire department try to help while his house burned to the ground. It was an experience he never forgot. The same goes for the events of Sept. 11, 2001, when he watched many firefighters go into the burning twin towers in New York City and never exit.

He’s trained as both an interior certified firefighter and a HAZMAT operator, Cianciara says, and normally handles car crashes and fundraising as part of his duties. He plans to continue volunteering in the future. “It is an incredible feeling,” Cianciara said. “You make a difference.”

The administrators of the Evan Holtz Recovery Fund, Jo-Ann Petruzziello and Brian Sujansky, say Cianciara’s idea has been greatly appreciated.

“He has been a pleasure to work with,” Petruzziello said, adding that they are looking forward to meeting Cianciara. The run will start at the North Branch (N.J.) Fire Department, which has been significant in supporting Holtz through the months, and end at Holtz’s fire company, Country Hills Fire.

Volunteering as a firefighter in New Jersey is not the only part of Cianciara’s life that he dedicates to helping others. He’s also a member of the Periclean Scholar program at Elon, and his cohort focuses on aiding Honduras.

Cianciara also works the Poverty Simulation at Elon and is the co-coordinator of the International Career Conference. He is a member of the Love School of Business’ Honor Roll for Social Responsibility, which requires 20 hours of community service during the fall. He plans to major in finance and minor in professional sales and astronomy.

To learn more about Cianciara’s goals or to donate money to Holtz’s recovery fund, visit his fundraising website.