TEMECULA, Calif. (KGTV) - Firefighters from all across San Diego County came together Wednesday to celebrate the birthday of a 4-year-old girl, after her father -- a Vista firefighter -- was recently diagnosed with cancer.
Outside a home in Temecula Wednesday morning, a surprise birthday procession drove past the home of 4-year-old Lily Valenta. Some 12 fire engines and dozens of vehicles rolled past in a drive-by procession.
"We tried to make it memorable for her ... a spot of happiness in tough times for their family," said fellow firefighter Patrick McDonald.
About six weeks ago, Lily's father, Andy Valenta, an 11-year veteran of the Vista Fire Department, started getting severe headaches.
"He was in and out of the ER, no diagnosis," said McDonald.
That diagnosis came last Friday for Valenta, a husband and father of two. Cancer.
McDonald spoke with Valenta on the phone on Sunday.
"It was very tough. He's such a loved person in my life, so I cried," said McDonald.
The next day, Valenta suffered a stroke. The cancer, either melanoma or lymphoma, had spread to his brain.
"It's in his entire body and very late stage when it was found ... They are going to look into radiation. His oncologist is hopeful about that," said McDonald.
As word of his diagnosis spread, the community, including his fire family, rallied together, forming a meal train and a Gofundme campaign for a beloved firefighter.
"Andy has been one of the most gregarious people I've ever met .. He lights up a room," said McDonald.
On Wednesday, the day belonged to his oldest daughter. What started with one engine from Vista quickly expanded as more departments from across the region signed up.
"We hope his family feels the outpouring of support ... They will always have our love," said McDonald.