BIDDEFORD, Maine — It was a neighborhood soccer game, unlike any other. That' s because this game ended with a photo shoot in front of a fire truck.
How did the kids in a Biddeford neighborhood meet these first responders? For the firefighters, it started like any other day.
"We had a serious call, it came in as a cardiac arrest," said Tim Sevigny, firefighter, paramedic. "A 10-year-old in cardiac arrest in a neighborhood in Biddeford where the community is pretty much all Iraqi people who live there with their children."
When they got to the scene a different scenario caught them by surprise.
"This mother is coming out with a baby in her arms," said Sevigny. "'Wait a minute, that's not a 10-year-old.'"
Rescuers had to change gears quickly to help a tinier patient than expected who was having a seizure. All throughout, they were unable to communicate with the parents.
"It can be very scary for them," said Sevigny. "Coming here not understanding what we do and how we operate, and just going in there and grabbing the baby."
The baby was OK, but mom and dad were understandably scared. And the firefighters left feeling like they could have done more to comfort the parents.
That's what sparked the idea to find and distribute a fire safety info sheet in Arabic.
They're also making time to connect with the kids in that community; many who do speak English, and can translate for parents.
"They're pretty amazing kids," said Lt. Matthew Leach of the Biddeford Fire Department.
Biddeford's outreach efforts go beyond the fire department. If you've been by the Pepperell Paper Mill Campus recently you may have noticed a massive mural. There's a story behind it, and one just like it in Iraq.
"We're able to highlight and hone in on people's shared humanity," said Samantha Robison, founder of Apt Art, one of two organizations leading the project.
Two murals, two countries, two classrooms.
The one in Iraq was completed last week. Biddeford 4th and 5th graders will soon help put the finishing touches on this mural.
Before the painting though, they were video chatting.
"It was so exciting in the classroom to see the kids' expressions," said Laura Rodgers of The Goodworks Foundation, the other group leading the project.
The students discovered they have a lot in common.
"Of course pizza was the major commonality amongst all the children," said Rodgers.
A Biddeford community is building bridges for their Iraqi neighbors at home and abroad one brush stroke and soccer kick at a time.