Captain Greg McKinney, HCFR, Station 17 with Retired Major Charlie Buntin

Action Alert: Time To Line The Boulevard In Support

APOLLO BEACH, FL. – Following Wednesday’s funeral commemorating the heroic life of Giovanni Ciancio, a 55-year-old Driver/Engineer for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, Station 15 in Palm River, Apollo Beach’s Cigars On The Boulevard (COTB) invites everyone to a special fundraiser in his honor with all proceeds going to his widow and family.

“Let’s line the boulevard Saturday, fill the medians if we have to!” Captain Greg McKinney (HCFR, Station 17) encouraged the public during a recent interview with COTB co-owner, Retired U.S. Army Major Charlie Buntin.

Buntin, who served distinctly with the 1st Infantry, the 101st Airborne Division, and the 1st Cavalry Division in his 18 years of service, and partner Kevin Elwell volunteered to host this event the night of Ciancio’s passing on October 21st. Both are committed to veterans, first responders, families, and the community so it was natural to immediately pick up the phone to reach out,” Captain McKinney explained.

“If you don’t support first responders, don’t call them,” Major Buntin said with his big smile and cigar in hand. This is a motto he lives and exhibits every day in support of the military, veterans, and all first responders. You can catch his vibe, knowledge, interviews, and humor through his daily Facebook lives, “We Drink, We Smoke, We Talk.”

Captain Greg McKinney, HCFR, Station 17 with Retired Major Charlie Buntin Apollo Beach
Captain Greg McKinney, HCFR, Station 17 with Retired Major Charlie Buntin

The fundraiser begins Saturday at 6 p.m. Wristbands are $20 and include all-you-can-drink Michelob Ultra. COTB does feature a full bar and a world-class selection of cigars. Station House BBQ is donating food for approximately 100 people (first come, first serve). There will be raffles and gift baskets with items including a hand-made set of leather suspenders and a leather radio strap created by a St. John County Firefighter, Station House BBQ, Florida’s Finest Beef Jerky, fishing charters, and more. Cash will be needed for these and all proceeds will go to Ciancio’s family.

According to Captain McKinney, Ciancio was a true hero whose life story should be made into a movie. “He was a phenomenal guy and we truly want to bring the community together to honor him and support his family. Let’s pack Apollo Beach Boulevard, show our outpouring of support, and gather at COTB.”

Ciancio, originally from Italy, came to the U.S. at 22, was a volunteer firefighter for a time in Missouri before moving to Florida where he also was a SWAT Medic for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. He had served almost twenty years before responding to a COVID-related EMS call in July which subsequently led to his death, which is classified a line-of-duty death.

McKinney spoke of the love of Ciancio’s life. He said Gio (Johnny) would travel back to Italy and Switzerland over the years to see his family. Destiny brought him together with his childhood sweetheart Francesca and the two married in 2015. “It was a beautiful, later-in-life love,” Captain McKinney explained.

Speaking about Ciancio’s massively attended 23.5-mile procession and funeral, “It was a very humbling experience. From where I was sitting I could see Gio’s wife sitting to my right. I just kept thinking I would never want my wife to be in that position, in that seat she’s sitting in now.”

Cigars On The Boulevard is located at 1438 Apollo Beach Blvd, Apollo Beach 33572. Phone: 813-296-1016.

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