Firefighter receives home makeover

7:31 PM, Jun 10, 2012   |    comments
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Andy Bernt, 51, worked as a firefighter for more than 25 years and served in the U.S. Air force. He became a paraplegic in 2005 after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.


TAMPA, Florida -- Firefighters from Hillsborough County are coming to the rescue of former fireman Andy Bernt and his family.

Bernt, 51, worked as a firefighter for more than 25 years and served in the U.S. Air force. He became a paraplegic in 2005 after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"In December 2005 is when my life really changed, [I] got the cancer," Bernt says.

Bernt's life is about to change again -- for the better. He's now a Bucs Hometown Hero and is getting a $40,000 home makeover to make his house handicapped accessible.

He says, "It's been almost 6-and-a-half years since I've seen my kitchen, since I have seen my bathroom."

Bernt's wife, Brenda, says, "It's a blessing, something we could not have done if God did not make it possible. I'm so glad God made the Bucs see our name when Andy wrote in about it."

When the moving and storage trucks pull out on Monday, constructions crews will move in and spend the next two months redoing the home to give Bernt back his independence. The doors in the 1,200-square foot home and the hallway will be widened, the bathroom given a roll-in shower, and the biggest change will be in the kitchen.

"[They're] turning it from a galley to an l-shape, puting in handicapped appliances," explains Brenda.

Bernt, a former fire house cook, is looking forward to getting back in the kitchen. "Instead of the wife saying, 'Do you need me to make you a sandwich?' I will do it. When the renovation is over, I will do it. I will pamper her and stuff when the house gets done. I'm excited," he says.

Bernt says the first dish he plans to cook will be German.

Bernt's firefighter brothers say they will be there to help him move back in.

"Andy is a fantastic person, he's touched our lives in so many ways. This is what we do in the fire service, we rally behind good causes, good people, to help them in a time of need," says firefighter John Cannon, a former Tampa Bay Buccaneer from 1982-1991.

Bernt says he can't thank everyone enough. "Guys, I love you, I love you, I love you. Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

The Bernt family will be staying in donated housing during the renovations.

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