Press Release, MAAC Foundation:

VALPARAISO, IN – In partnership with the Northwest Indiana District 1 Firefighter Training Council, the MAAC Foundation is proud to announce the graduation of its 11th Fire Academy. This ceremony will be held on Friday, June 28, 2024, at 6:00 P.M. CST, at the MAAC Foundation First Responders Training Campus in the Heroes’ Hangout Building.

The 8 graduates representing the Portage, Lake Hills, Ogden Dunes, Whiting, and Hobart Fire Departments have completed a rigorous 11-week training program that included instruction in fire
suppression, hazmat operations, and technical rescue, along with other firefighting skills. They have also learned about the importance of community service and public education.
Surrounded by loved ones, friends, and their newest families – the fire departments which they are joining – the following graduates will walk across the stage to receive their certificates:
Jacob Davis, Lake Hills Fire Department
Austin DeYoung, Portage Fire Department
Brodrick Claesgens, Portage Fire Department
Sartori Chiaro, Portage Fire Department
Nicholas Duncan, Ogden Dunes Fire Department
Alekzandr Rhody, Portage Fire Department
Trey Cook, Whiting Fire Department
Kyle Smith, Hobart Fire Department

“The dedication and hard work demonstrated by these eight individuals over the past 11 weeks have been truly inspiring,” said Celina Weatherwax, President & CEO of the MAAC Foundation. “Their commitment to excellence and community service embodies the spirit of what it means to be a firefighter.
We are proud to welcome them into the ranks of first responders who bravely protect and serve our communities.”

Rick Neckos, Academy Instructor and Portage Fire Department Firefighter and Paramedic has been teaching the new graduates throughout their long journey.

“As the instructor of this fire academy, I am immensely proud to witness the graduation of this
remarkable group of individuals. Throughout their rigorous training, they have demonstrated exceptional courage, dedication, and an unwavering commitment to serving our community. They have faced
challenges head-on, honed their skills, and developed the resilience needed to excel in the field of firefighting. Today, we celebrate not only their accomplishments but also the bright future they hold as they embark on their journey to protect and save lives. Congratulations to each of our graduates—your
hard work and perseverance have truly paid off, and I am confident you will make a significant difference in the lives of many.”

The MAAC Foundation, First Responder Training Campus is transforming the landscape of First Responder training across Northwest Indiana, the state, and the country. With a comprehensive, inclusive campus, they provide access for all First Responders – EMT personnel, firefighters, law enforcement officers, and K9 officers – to train at their state-of-the-art facility at no cost. The MAAC is a top provider of safety, emergency preparedness, and response training with more than 15 buildings, such as classroom space, residential structures, a live burn building, a flashover chamber, and a 4-story tower. Additionally, the facility boasts over 40 tactical props spread across 30+ acres.

For more information about the MAAC Foundation and how to help make a safer community as a first responder or community member, visit to learn about our services or volunteer.