Lighting ceremony honors fallen firefighter

MARIA S. YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO

Fox Chase Recreation Center was the scene of a recent field-lighting dedication ceremony in memory of fallen firefighter Daniel Sweeney.

Sweeney, 25, was a six-year veteran of the Philadelphia Fire Department when he died in April 2012 while battling a five-alarm inferno at an abandoned East Kensington warehouse. He and Lt. Robert Neary, both of Ladder 10, died when a brick wall crumbled on top of them as they doused remnants of the blaze inside a neighboring furniture store.

In June 2013, Field #1 and a new backstop were dedicated in Sweeney’s memory.

On Oct. 21 of this year, a new field lighting system was unveiled. It will provide game-quality lights to the baseball and soccer fields.

Among those at the ceremony were Sweeney’s parents, Dave and Marian; his sister, Suzanne Swedlige, an Engine 7 firefighter; and his niece, Stacey.

Marian Sweeney cut a ribbon to recognize the new lighting system, and she threw out the first pitch — a strike — to commemorate the improved field.

Joining the Sweeneys were City Councilman Brian O’Neill; Leo Dignam, a deputy commissioner in the city Department of Parks and Recreation; state Sen. John Sabatina Jr.; Fox-Rok Ravens cheerleaders; a color guard from Corp. John Loudenslager American Legion Post 366; and representatives of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 22, Fox Chase Soccer Club and Fox-Rok A.A.

“This was done to honor a hero,” O’Neill said.

The Rev. Charles Bonner, pastor at St. Cecilia Church, gave the invocation.

Daniel Sweeney attended St. Cecilia Elementary School and played for Fox Chase Soccer Club. A 50/50 drawing was held to benefit a scholarship fund created in his memory.

“It means so much to us the support we have. We miss Dan every day, and we talk about him every day,” said Dave Sweeney, a retired fire captain.

After the ceremony, there were softball and soccer games featuring firefighters, police officers and members of Fox Chase Soccer Club and Fox-Rok A.A.

O’Neill (R-10th dist.) said the lights are almost as good as the ones at Citizens Bank Park, suggesting that the Phillies can practice there.

The councilman added that Fox Chase Recreation Center is the busiest in the city.

“It should also be the nicest,” he said.

O’Neill would like to see a mural featuring Sweeney and Fox Chase youth at the recreation center. ••

MARIA S. YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO

Play ball: Dave and Marian Sweeney throw the first pitch at Fox Chase Recreation Center, following a field-lighting ceremony in honor of their son, fallen firefighter Daniel Sweeney. MARIA S. YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO