FIREFIGHTERS FUNDRAISER: Saturday fun raising $$$ for Mack Beal, Nick Saale

Published 12:07 am Wednesday, September 21, 2016

LAPLACE — The St. John the Baptist Parish community mourned the death of District Fire Chief Spencer Chauvin, who was killed Aug. 28 while working a wreck on Interstate 10.

Now the community is rallying around the two firefighters who survived the tragedy.

A fundraiser for St. John firefighters Mack Beal and Nick Saale will be held Saturday at Baba’s Main Street Grill, 509 Main St. in LaPlace. The event, which will feature food, music, raffles and door prizes, begins at noon.

Mack Beal

Mack Beal

Both men were thrown over the side of elevated Interstate 10 when a bus careened into the scene of an earlier accident. Chauvin was killed. Beale, of Gonzales, sustained minor injuries to his knee and shoulder. Saale, of Pontchatoula, was critically injured and remained hospitalized until Sept. 8. Both are recovering from their injuries, said St. John Fire Chief Cain Dufrene.

Nick Saale

Nick Saale

“Both are at home, recovering,” Dufrene said. “Nick is set to start rehabbing his broken leg. His wife is pregnant. Mack is following up on his knee and shoulder and should be getting an MRI soon to see if he requires any more surgeries. Both are off the job and both would work secondary jobs. They haven’t been able to do that.”

Tammy Esponge is helping organize the event, along with Brittany Chauvin Borne, the sister of Spencer Chauvin, calling the event “The Spencer Way,” based on a remark made by State Fire Marshal Butch Browning during his eulogy for Chauvin.

“He just talked about the way Spencer did everything,” Borne said. “He called it the Spencer way.”

A few days after Chauvin’s funeral, Borne and her husband felt they needed to do something to help Beal and Saale.

“My husband and I had just come from seeing Nick and we started talking about doing something,” Borne said. “We went to see Baba (Oncale) and it just blew up from there. I feel like, if circumstances were different and Spencer would have been the one who made it, he would have been out the next day putting something like this together. He would have been the one getting the ball rolling. For me and my family, this has really been therapy in this planning process. It just felt right.”

Esponge, who has organized other fundraisers for families in need, was quick to help.

“We need to come together as a community to help these guys,” Esponge said. “They really need our help.”

Although the event has been put together in a relatively short period of time, Esponge said the community response has exceeded expectations.

“It has been phenomenal,” she said. “People are calling me every day, wanting to donate door prizes.”

Borne said the community and even the nation has rallied around her family in the wake of Chauvin’s death.

“The support in general, just from our community and even people across the nation who have reached out to us,” Borne said. “It’s really been phenomenal.”

The event will feature food, live music, a silent auction and contests, including a chef’s cook-off and a rock-painting contest.

Tickets are $20 and include all food. There will be a cash bar.

Children 12 and under will be admitted free.

The grand prizes to be raffled off are an offshore charter fishing trip and an in-shore trip. Door prizes include Saints and LSU tickets and an assortment of gift cards.

The band Off the Hook will begin playing at 1 p.m. and the LSU game against Auburn will be televised at 5 p.m.

Esponge said they still are seeking teams for the cook-off. There is no fee to enter, but participants will need to provide their own food to be cooked, pots, burners, tables, tents, etc. All paper products will be provided. Teams may begin cooking at 8 a.m. and must be ready by noon. First, second and People’s Choice awards will be announced.

Anyone wishing to donate door prizes still may do so.

Email Tammy Esponge at for information.