Mount Airy carnival supports community and young girl slated for surgery

It rained the first day of the Mt. Airy fire carnival, but the fun continued despite the drizzle with Mayor Patrick Rockinberg wishing 10-year-old Mt. Airy resident Caitlyn Kohn well before her pacemaker surgery Tuesday, all-night ride deals, food stands galore and vendors.

The Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Company, mayor and Police Department took a Mount Airy Elementary School student to the stage Monday evening on the first night of the fire company’s 91st annual fire carnival.

Ten-year-old Caitlyn Kohn is scheduled for a pacemaker installation surgery Tuesday morning, July 24, in Baltimore.


“Caitlyn Kohn is having a big procedure done tomorrow for such a little girl ,” said Mayor Patrick Rockinberg to a crowd at the carnival. “But she’s going to Johns Hopkins, and they’re going to take care of her, and she will be amazing. We just want to take care of her and show her some love and support, and we have some special gifts for her.

“Three years ago the Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Company rescued you and they rushed you, if I’m correct, to Johns Hopkins where they saved your life,” Rockinberg said.

And that’s just the beginning of the story, Caitlyn’s mother Maureen Kohn said, holding back tears.

“She had an operation in 2015,” she said. “She had a monitor put in her heart. … We found out her heart stops beating. Most recently, in April, it stopped for 20.5 seconds.”

Once her family realized the pattern, they decided to get Caitlyn a pacemaker so that if her heart does ever stop, the device can pick it back up again.

Rockinburg gave her a Mount Airy coin to keep as a good-luck charm if she wanted to and a stuffed bunny to bring to the hospital with her since her bunny would be left at home. Dan Caiola, president of the Mount Airy fire company and the carnival’s chair, gave Caitlyn a T-shirt and proclaimed her an honorary member of the fire department; Police Chief Doug Reitz gave her a flag and police Sgt. Curt Snyder handed her a crisp 100-dollar bill before a crowd of friends and family threw their arms around her.

When the band Twenty Dollar Prophet started playing again, its members sang to Caitlyn and dedicated “American Girl” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to her.

“It means so much to me,” Caitlyn said. “I already kind of know what’s going to happen because I have a heart monitor, but it’s scary.”

Caiola said the connections the fire department makes with the community, through calls, volunteerism and other services, is what makes the carnival such a beautiful event. Celebrating Caitlyn’s bravery during such a difficult time after helping her family on that day three years ago is part of that.

He also said it’s a time where all generations of fire department volunteers can come out to raise funds and support each other.

“It just brings everyone together,” said Caiola. “The older members and the younger generation, [and] all of the stands go directly to help pay off purchases, new apparatus, new tools, upkeep and improvements to the building.

“We are also in the process of looking into purchasing a ladder truck,” he said. “That will be a big project that will take a good amount of money. It could be a million dollars for the ladder truck, but who knows to fully equip it.”

To the fire department’s benefit, and that of the community, neither the rides nor the games stopped despite intermittent rain showers on the carnival’s first night. Kids could still be heard squealing on the Zipper from the parking lot by 9 p.m.

Mount Airy resident Katie House has lived in the town for about 10 years and said her favorite part of the carnival is watching how much fun her children have.


“It’s the kids,” said House Monday afternoon. “Watching them have so much fun on the rides and seeing the light in their eyes.

“As soon as they see the rides go up Sunday night, they’re like, ‘Yay! The carnival is here!’ ” she said.

The carnival will run from 5 to 10 p.m. each night this week until Saturday, with various live music offerings on the outside stage and bingo inside the air conditioned activity hall each evening. Raffle winners will be announced on Saturday and a fireworks show is scheduled to celebrate the last day.