CRETE, NE — Two organizations in Crete are coming together to help one of their own.

"You know, we maybe help him raise a little money, pay for some bills and help get some things taken care of around his house."

Crete Volunteer Fire and Rescue and Doane University are partnering up to raise money for Brad Elder.

A near-four year member of the department and Doane professor, Elder was injured while battling grass fires in October. He suffered severe burns to about 20 percent of his body. Crete Rescue Lieutenant Nikki Wells says he’s undergone multiple skin graft surgeries and is still rehabbing in Lincoln.

"They got him to where he needed to be as quick as a time as they could," Wells said. "They saved Brad's life pretty much."

Crete Fire Chief Tod Allen said after the incident happened Elder and another Crete firefighter were battling flames near Hallam when the wind shifted and put the two in the path of the quick-moving flames.

The other firefighter was treated for second-degree burns and released after a brief stay at the hospital.

Elder's injuries were so severe though — including third and fourth-degree burns — doctors put him into a coma to help with the pain when he arrived to the hospital, according to Doane President Dr. Roger Hughes. He traveled to Lincoln the next day, to talk to Elder's family, but got to speak with the man himself when he woke up.

"The first thing out of his mouth was, 'Did we get the fire out?,'" Hughes said. "Then the second thing was, 'Did we save the house?' That just speaks to the dedication Brad has and I think that's one of the things that rallies people around him."

Now, about three months since Elder's hospitalization, the school and department are holding a benefit for him on Saturday, Feb. 4. Crete Fire and Rescue came up with idea and Doane jumped on board and will host the event at the Haddix Center normally where Doane basketball and wrestling compete.

"Brad is extremely popular on campus and in the community because of his work with the volunteer fire department and frankly all of his teaching of other firemen in the area," Hughes said. "We had a quick meeting and decided given the size or volume of people we're expecting, it'd probably be better to move the venue to somewhere we'd have enough room."

The public is invited. The day includes a free will donation dinner and silent auction.

As for Elder’s rehab, Wells and Hughes say it is going well. He’s chomping at the bit to get home.

"The last time I saw him was just last week," Hughes said. "He was already making plans for his students on his computer when I was there and I said, 'What did I tell you your first job was? Get well.'"

And he’s remained in high spirits throughout the endeavor

"Brad is doing awesome," Wells said. "I've been up there several times in fact, his wounds are all healing really well."

The encouraging news doesn't stop there. Crete Fire and Rescue learned from Brad's family Thursday afternoon that he's on track to be released from the hospital and home by late next week — just about one week before his benefit.

If all goes to plan, they're optimistic Elder will be able to make an appearance.

"We're hoping to get Brad there not only so the public can see him, but so Brad can say, 'Hey thanks for everything you guys have done for me and my family,'" Wells said. 

The benefit is from 1-6 p.m. on Sat. Feb. 4, at the Haddix Center at Doane University. For those unable to attend, people can also bid online.

CF&R is still accepting donations of items to be auctioned off. People who want to donate something to the auction should contact Crete Volunteer Fire and Rescue. Items must be received by Jan. 26, 2023.

There is also a GoFundMe set up for Elder and his family for those who wish to donate. It was set up in October and has raised over $29,000 to date.