Patrick J. Kenny
PATRICK J. KENNY has been a member of the fire service for over 38 years, and before retiring in January 2021 served as the Fire Chief in Hinsdale and Western Springs, Illinois. He has been a Chief Officer for over 25 years and a speaker in multiple countries on Mayday for Mental Health® for more than a decade. He is the international best-selling author of TAKING THE CAPE OFF: How to Lead Through Mental Illness, Unimaginable Grief and Loss and has articles published in the areas of mental health, leadership, fire safety, and fire code challenges. He was awarded the Fire Chief of the Year in 2004 by the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association and in 2021 he was awarded Fire Chief Emeritus status by the Executive Board of the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association. He was awarded the Fire Engineering/International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI) George D. Post Instructor of the Year Award for 2020-2021.
I have always believed that being a firefighter is a vocation, and if called, God gives firefighters a “Cape” to enable them to go places and do things that others cannot or should not have to do to protect and save lives. As a father and husband, the number-one responsibility is to protect my blood family, my wife, and my three children. As a fire chief, my number-one responsibility is to protect my extended family, the members of my department. I faithfully put on that “Cape” every day with both families in mind. However, when the person I wanted to save the most was in a battle for his life, the Cape failed me.
As a father, the self-identified protector, I experienced the pain and helplessness of watching my youngest son Sean, struggle with mental illness for most of his life. I could not protect him from his struggles with mental illness or save his life when he died by suicide at the age of only twenty.
I have taken on Sean’s mission through speaking and sharing with audiences that mental illness is a proven physical illness, not a character weakness, and indeed it is not a choice any more than one chooses cancer.
In my presentations, I used a slide with a side by side comparison of mental illness and brain cancer. One day, my wife Eileen, who was always by my side, encouraging me to share Sean’s message, without any significant symptoms or warning, was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an incurable brain cancer. I’m a big believer in signs, and both my wife and I wondered, did we somehow know what was about to strike our family when we choose, of all illnesses, brain cancer as the comparison?
Before my wife passed and joined our son Sean in heaven, she made me promise to continue to spread Sean’s message that mental illness is a physical illness and to write a book. I’ve honored both of these promises and intend to continue to do so with the same passion Sean and Eileen lived their lives.
Patrick J. Kenny
Chief Kenny has been a member of the fire service for over 38 years.
Chief Kenny holds the highest certification in the state of Illinois for a Chief Officer.
He serves as a member of the Illinois Fire Chief’s Promotional Assessment Board.
Past president of the Illinois Fire Chief’s Association, DuPage Fire Chief’s Association and MABAS Division 10.
An advisory board member for the Rosecrance Florian Program for Firefighters and Paramedics.
He is a member of Yellow Ribbon Committee
He was one of the contributors to the original IAFC Volunteer and Combination Officers Sections Yellow Ribbon Report entitled UNDER THE HELMET:
Performing An Internal Size-Up
A Proactive Approach To Ensuring Mental Wellness
A current recipient of Chief Officer Designation by the International Fire Chiefs’ Association.
He is a former member of the Illinois Fire Chiefs Educational Foundation.
Instructor for the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association and the Illinois Fire Service Institute.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Loyola University and an associate degree in fire science from the College of DuPage.
He is a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer program at the National Fire Academy.
Recognition & Awards
Instructor of the Year 2020 - 2021
Awarded the Fire Engineering/International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI) George D. Post Instructor of the Year Award for 2020-2021
Awarded Fire Chief Emeritus status in 2021 by the Executive Board of the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association
Illinois Fire Instructor of the Year 2016
Twice awarded the Fire Prevention Achievement Award by the Illinois Fire Inspector’s Association
Twice a recipient of the Richard Arthur Lifetime Achievement Award
Awarded the Fire Chief of the Year in 2004 by the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association
Distinguished Service Award from the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association and its Board of Directors 2015
– Volunteer baseball coach for Downers Grove South since 1999.
Taking The Cape Off
Patrick J. Kenny
Pass It On
Patrick J. Kenny Contributing Author
Breaking the Stigma
Looking for a speaker to empower leaders with tools and resources to break the stigma of mental illness?