Heather was the daughter of Penny and Ex-Chief Tom Pendergast of the Massapequa Fire Department. She was born with a rare inherited, chronic and often fatal disease which affects multiple vital organs, particularly the bone marrow, pancreas and the skeleton. The disease is called Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome (SDS). Complications of SDS include failure to thrive, pancreatic insufficiency, short stature, dental problems and learning disabilities. Due to a high risk of leukemia, yearly bone marrow biopsies are required for SDS patients.
In spite of Heather's health and developmental issues, she had a bright and sunny personality. She loved everyone she met and made them feel special. In spite of her tiny size, she made a large impression on everyone. In October of 2007, Heather was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was only 30 years of age. Breast cancer is a enormous challenge for any adult, but for a person with SDS, it is a nightmare. This was the beginning of a truly horrible and life changing year for Heather and her family. However, it was also a year that they felt so much love and goodness from so many people. In August of 2008, with much help from the Massapequa Fire Department, Heather was able to remain home under hospice care. On September 19, 2008 the Massapequa Fire Department held the "Heather's Hope" benefit for Heather and her family. Hundreds from the community, the Massapequa Fire Department and neighboring departments attended. The highlight of the event was when Chief Fitzsimmons swore heather in as a member of Company 2 of the Massapequa Fire Department. This was such a proud day for Heather and her family. No words can express the joy she felt. A million dollars paled in comparison to the smile on her face. Heather was a special and remarkable person who touched and inspired so many lives. She waged a heroic battle with breast cancer for one year and on October 30, 2008, passed away peacefully at home.
The Heather Pendergast Fund was established by members of Company 1 & 2 of the Massapequa Fire Department in Heather's memory. It is their hope, and for sure Heather's hope, that the Fund will be there to help another firefighter or EMS volunteer whose child is facing a life threatening illness or injury.