VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY)- Virginia Beach Fire Department Captain Matt Chiaverotti is a one-of-a-kind hero, according to his friends and colleagues.
“Live life at a ten, right? That’s who he is. The biggest personality in the room. Go-getter. Everything he does is 100%. And that’s how he lives every day of his life,” said Chiaverotti’s best friend, Captain Billy Scott.
Scott and Chiaverotti hit it off over 20 years ago when they were both new to VBFD. Scott says the news of Chiaverotti’s cancer shattered him and other members of the firefighting community.
“It hit me very hard. I was at work that day, at Station 10, sitting at my desk. I couldn’t get a hold of him for a couple of hours, and then he finally called me,” Scott remembers. “He said ‘Look man, I’m going to lay some heavy stuff on you. And then I’ve got to go because I’ve got doctor’s appointments,’. Then he told me he had thyroid cancer.”
Chiaverotti’s diagnosis is Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer (metastatic carcinoma), a rare and aggressive form of cancer that accounts for less than 2% of thyroid cancers.
Chiaverotti is an accomplished member of the VBFD as the Captain of Engine 7. He is also a FEMA Virginia Task Force 2 Search Team Manager. His work with FEMA has led him to disasters in Haiti and Puerto Rico.
“Receiving that news, you know, is heartbreaking. But, he said ‘I’m going to get through this thing and come out on the other side,’” Scott said.
Chiaverotti’s determination is met with a swarth of support from the firefighting community. Firefighters from the Chesapeake, Norfolk, and Portsmouth fire departments joined the fundraising efforts. A raffle already raised over $30,000 for the Chiaverotti family. The effort continues with a Go-Fund-Me, and several benefit events planned for this month.
Scott says that Matt and his wife Sara were initially uncomfortable with the attention and gestures, and it took some convincing.
“Their gratitude is unbelievable. They’re givers. Believe me, they’re very hesitant for all this,” Scott said. “Me and Matt had a heart-to-heart about this. And it was ‘if the shoe was on the other foot, you’d be doing the same thing.’”
Max Gonano, president of the Virginia Beach Firefighters Association, said that the inherently dangerous nature of firefighters’ work brings the community together.
“In the fire service, we’re in a profession where we’re moving towards peril while everyone else is moving away,” Gonano said. “There’s a bond and a fraternity amongst everyone in it. And if someone’s having an issue we all go try to raise that person up as best we can.”
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Benefit events will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 5 at CP Shucker’s Cafe & Raw Bar in Virginia Beach from 5 p.m.-10 p.m., and on Thursday, Oct. 20 at Thin Brew Line Brewing Co. in Virginia Beach at 5 p.m.