KEARNEY — Teaching children respect, honor, bravery and compassion is the goal of a new sculpture at the Nebraska Firefighter Museum and Education Center.
The “R. Hero” sculpture arrived Oct. 20 in Kearney and will be dedicated at 2 p.m. Sunday at the firefighters museum at 2434 E. First Ave. The dedication will be in the memorial garden, weather permitting. “R. Hero” will be a permanent sculpture.
The sculpture was created after Sept. 11 and honors firefighters, police officers, first responders, heroes in uniform in service to our nation, and everyday heroes who save, rescue, protect and care for humans and animals.
“It’s a huge honor for us to have it here,” Museum Director Ali Abler said.
The firefighters museum was selected from a national field of fire stations, education centers and museums as a sculpture recipient.
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“‘R. Hero’ teaches children about earning their spots, like a Dalmatian. Through the sculpture, children learn honor, respect, dedication that you see in the fire service, EMS, law enforcement, military. Through that, they learn how they can earn their spots, too,” Abler said.
The 6-foot, 150-pound aluminum Dalmatian sculpture was designed by artists Karen and Tony Barone. The Dalmatians come in a variety of colors, but Abler wanted red to represent the Huskers.
Abler heard about the sculpture from a fellow museum curator. Similar Dalmatians are at museums in larger cities such as Los Angeles, Detroit, New York and in Ecuador.
Although Kearney is the smallest museum “R. Hero” has ever been placed in, Abler said The Hero in You Foundation founders Rick and Bunni Benaron of Rancho Mirage, Calif., thought the museum was deserving. “I told them we might be small, but we’re stubborn, and we’re strong and we have tons of pride,” Abler said.
This spring and summer, Abler would like to have “R. Hero” day camps for children to learn about fire prevention and safety, emergency medical services and law enforcement.
Guest speakers at Sunday’s dedication will be U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith, Kearney Volunteer Fire Department Chief Terry Eirich, and Norman Hoeft, president of the firefighters museum and the Nebraska representative for the National Volunteer Fire Council.