NewsMontana News


'A ramp for Roger': Montana man reminded of act of kindness each time he leaves his house

Billings firefighter Shane Perry recently helped build a brand new ramp for resident Roger Labrie
Posted at 7:43 AM, Mar 22, 2024

BILLINGS - It wasn’t long ago when Billings Heights resident Roger Labrie worried every time he left his house.

“I used to get along really well until I got older,” he said.

That's because when he opened his front door he was staring down at an old and deteriorating ramp.

However, it was an act of kindness from the Billings Fire Department that changed all that.

Labrie was born with cerebral palsy.

“I am used to falling,” he said. “And now that I’m a lot older, it’s a lot harder for me to get around.”

And that’s exactly what happened just a few weeks ago when Billings experienced a February cold snap that left snowfall and ice left on the ramp.

“And that’s how I fell because I just didn’t have a grip on it,” he said.

His 9-year-old son Leo and his fiancé Rachel Schlender watched it all unfold. Without the strength to pull Labrie back up, they decided to call for help.

“We better do what we got to do to get him up,” said Schlender.

Just moments later, Billings firefighters arrived at his home for a lift assist, according to firefighter Shane Perry.

“We arrived on scene. We saw Roger lying at the bottom of the ramp,” said Perry.

Turns out, no matter how cautious Labrie was with his steps, they were no match for that failing ramp.

“It was leaning, and it almost looked like it was going to fall to me,” said Schlender.

After Labrie checked out in good shape, Perry couldn’t help but think about how it was only a matter of time before he would slip again.

“That wasn’t the first time he’d fallen, I guess,” he said.

So, he went back to Labrie’s house a few days later to ask him if it would be okay to rebuild the ramp, ensuring he never falls on it again.

“I was pretty happy,” said Labrie.

In just a couple of days, Perry and another friend rebuilt that old ramp into a longer, wider, and sturdier passageway for Labrie to safely get in and out of his home.

And it was with help from the Billings Firefighters Benevolent Fund, which helped make it happen.

“The benevolent fund was started about 20 years ago with a group of guys,” said Ben Jares.

Jares is the board chair for the Billings Benevolent Fund, which is funded through donations.

“When we first started, we were giving to people who had house fires and we started giving them some gift cards because the guys were leaving in the middle of the night and these people had nowhere to go,” said Jares.

But the fund evolved with donations. Jares says if a request to dip into the fun comes through, the board votes on it.

The fund is making it possible for Labrie’s steps to become a bit more confident.

“My son Leo says, whoa you can go up the steps a lot faster, and I said, yeah it’s a lot easier,” he said.