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    NYFD coming for R&R -- and more

    More New York firefighters will vacation in Clearwater under a program begun after the Sept. 11 attacks.

    By CHRIS TISCH, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 15, 2002

    CLEARWATER -- Another group of New York City firefighters will head to Florida to enjoy a little rest and relaxation, thanks to efforts by local firefighters, businesses and residents.

    The firefighters are being brought to Clearwater as part of the Clearwater 4R program, which stands for rescue, recovery, rest and relaxation. Program organizers hosted 20 firefighters and their spouses in January as a tribute to the rescuers after the Sept. 11 attacks.

    The vacation is virtually free for the firefighters, a couple of whom are bringing their families. Ten firefighters are coming by themselves, and some support staff members also are making the trip, said David Hogan, secretary/treasurer of the Clearwater Firefighters Association, Local 1158.

    "Pretty much the whole package is (free)," Hogan said. "We're very fortunate that a lot of the merchants stepped up again, as they did in January when the first group came down."

    The firefighters will arrive at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport on Thursday and will return to New York on Monday. Airline tickets were donated by Southeast Airlines.

    Several Clearwater hotels are offering their best rooms for free, including the Best Western Sea Wake, Holiday Inn Sun Spree and Chart House Suites on Clearwater Bay. Other hotels participating are the Bay Queen Motel, Ramada Inn and Islander Motel.

    Organizers plan to take the firefighters to Busch Gardens, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Celebration Station, Sun Cruz Casino Boat and Hubbard's Marina. The firefighters also can go golfing, water-scootering, deep-sea fishing and parasailing.

    The group will get a catered dinner coordinated by Michelle Palisi, owner of Chocolates by Michelle in New Port Richey. She is a professional caterer whose family includes three generations of career firefighters.

    Hogan said he hopes the program will continue and others will come to Clearwater. He said several in the first group have scoped out the area as a potential retirement destination.

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