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Families of Fallen Heroes

One Mission. One Night. Legendary Impact

For 32 years, Budweiser Guns ‘N Hoses has captivated both the first responder and boxing communities, bringing the two groups together in epic bouts. Just like the Gateway Arch, St. Louis proudly claims Budweiser Guns ‘N Hoses as its own monumental tradition, an awe-inspiring mainstay. It is the event to attend on Thanksgiving Eve.

Before this year’s blow-by-blows, the ceremonial Ten-Count was conducted to honor Auxiliary Officer Ricardo Davis of the Washington Park Police Department who died in the line of duty on October 27, 2018. Officer Matt Crosby, Officer Gary Glasby and Officer Ryan O’Connor, who were catastrophically injured in the line of duty, were in attendance and honored for their service.

A sold-out crowd of over 18,000 people attended the highly anticipated event to cheer on their choice of Team Red or Team Blue. We cheered on one of our own, Officer David Weinhold, son of Sgt. Richard Weinhold, EOW 10/31/00.  Officer Weinhold threw his hat in the ring and represented the St. Louis County Police Department on Team Blue. During his three years of service with the department, Officer Weinhold considered one day entering the ring.

The Weinhold family has loyally made Budweiser Guns ‘N Hoses a tradition. Officer Weinhold shares, “I have attended Budweiser Guns ‘N Hoses for the past 18 years with my family. We have not missed one since the death of my father. It was always something growing up that I enjoyed, and part of me certainly thought about competing one day”. With encouragement and support from Budweiser Guns ‘N Hoses veteran, Sgt. McCann, Officer Weinhold began the tedious training process in August. “My initial goal was not to fight. I wanted to go out and train with everyone and fill in if someone needed a sparring partner. I have the utmost respect for everyone that took personal time to go to the gym and train for hours every day”.

Over time, Officer Weinhold showed signs of progress and strength, which landed him an envied spot on the fight card. “As training continued, I gained more confidence and decided to try and get on the fight card. My trainer, Officer Tim Burke, helped me every day. I was excited and nervous when I heard that I had been chosen to fight”.

Officer David Weinhold representing
Team Blue

We are very proud of Officer Weinhold’ s accomplishments and consider it an honor to watch him succeed. Officer Weinhold is sure to let people know that when they attend Budweiser Guns ‘N Hoses, they are supporting a mission that he holds dear. Prior to the fight he said, “I hope that I can go out there as a face of BackStoppers. I want people to see what their support can do, and how they can impact a life”.

The 32nd annual Budweiser Guns ‘N Hoses concluded with Team Blue claiming victory. Over $7 million dollars have been given to our cause through Budweiser Guns ‘N Hoses. As we reflect on the last 32 years of legendary support, we are deeply grateful for those that dedicate and sacrifice their time to make this event possible. We thank the fighters that train endlessly and the dedicated, record-breaking crowds that make Budweiser Guns ‘N Hoses a tradition year after year. Because of the support from the community, we can provide hope to families of fallen heroes. Thank you for contributing to our mission. We will see you on Thanksgiving Eve 2019!

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Tradition of Heart and Community: The Jordan Family

Officer Robert Jordan
St. Louis County Police Dept.
EOW 5/16/1981

Officer Robert Jordan served in the Divisions of Patrol, Operational Support and Criminal Investigation for the St. Louis Police Department. He was also a Police Recruiter and received numerous letters of commendation and appreciation from the department and the community he served. Husband to school teacher Emmagene Jordan, father of five from toddler to teenager, and photography hobbyist, Officer Jordan was not only an exceptional police officer, but a man who loved his family and community.

Officer Jordan and Emmagene Jordan

In February of 1981, Officer Jordan saw great potential and encouraged Sgt. (Ret.) Byron “Sarge” Watson to become a police officer. “Robert was very dedicated to law enforcement, and he was concerned about the lack of minority officers on the department. He encouraged me to put in an application.” Later that year, Sgt. (Ret.) Watson joined the academy and was hired by the St. Louis County Police Department before walking at graduation. “I will never forget how proud Robert was when I told him that I got hired. He told me that he couldn’t wait to watch me walk across the stage at my graduation ceremony.” Tragically, Officer Jordan never got to see his friend graduate.

Four months prior to the commencement, on May 16, 1981, Officer Jordan was robbed at gunpoint while shopping with one of his children.  The suspect demanded Officer Jordan’s wallet, and upon opening the wallet saw Officer Jordan’s police badge. The suspect shot Officer Jordan three times in the chest, killing him. Sgt. (Ret.) Watson remembers when he heard the news of Officer Jordan’s death, “I was totally devasted. I dedicated my academy training to him, and on the days when I wanted to give up, I would think about how disappointed Robert would have been.  I graduated in September, and as I walked across the stage, I could feel Robert’s presence.”

Sgt. (Ret.) Watson and Emmagene Jordan

After three decades in law enforcement, Sgt. (Ret) Watson is now the chaplain for the St. Louis County Police Department. In 1997 he became a BackStoppers Family Friend volunteer, and in 2017 he became a Family Friend to Officer Jordan’s widow, Emmagene. For over 25 years, Sgt. (Ret.) Watson was Emmagene’ s escort for the Annual Prayer Breakfast held in Clayton. This past August Emmagene Jordan passed away at the age of 80. Sgt. (Ret.) Watson reflects on the years he spent with both Officer Robert Jordan and Emmagene Jordan, “I owe my career to the Jordan family. They have always been my inspiration, and I really miss them.”

 Officer Jordan’s daughter, Renate Kirksey, was two years old at the time he was killed. Renate is now a second-grade teacher for Parkwood Elementary, and she shares what inspired her to teach, “My family has had many educators, including my late mother. Within education are the principles of service and family. I was ultimately inspired by my mother to enter the field of education.”

The integrity and dedication to helping others that Renate’s parents instilled in her has been applied to her teaching career. She shares how she honors her parents’ teachings, “I honor and remember my parents by continuing the beautiful values and traditions they taught and modeled for us. Service and family were among the very important foundations established by both of my parents.”

After hearing the news of Renate’s mother passing away, the Parkwood Elementary Principal, Melissa Yount-Ott offered to hold casual dress days among the faculty with proceeds benefiting BackStoppers in honor of Officer Robert Jordan and Emmagene Jordan. The fundraiser raised over $300 for BackStoppers! 

The Jordan family made a difference in their community and changed lives for the better. We are honored to have served and assisted the Jordan family. We will never forget the sacrifice Officer Robert Jordan made and we will continue to remember him.

“The BackStoppers is an organization that has helped my family tremendously since the untimely and unexpected tragic loss of my father.  The BackStoppers support helped ease the weight with financial assistance for my mother and her five children.  Words cannot express the gratitude my family has for the effort of the BackStoppers for not only my family, but all the families served. We look forward to helping support the organization that supports so many families of our local service heroes that will never be forgotten.” – Renate Kirksey

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A Lineage of Public Service

Officer James Reifschneider
St. Louis County Police Dept.
EOW 4/30/1977

On April 30, 1977, St. Louis County Police Officer James Reifschneider was conducting a traffic stop when he was struck by a motorist and killed, leaving behind his wife, Sue Reifschneider, and their three children.  The BackStoppers immediately began assisting the Reifschneider family.  Now, more than 40 years later, the family’s heritage of honor is more than apparent.  Officer Reifschneider’s son, Lt. Mike Reifschneider, is a BackStoppers Family Friend volunteer and serves with the St. Louis County Police Department as his father did.  Lt. Reifschneider’s daughter, Kara Reifschneider George, is a dispatcher for the department and his son, Jake Reifschneider, is a paramedic pursuing a career in firefighting.

Lt. Reifschneider recalls what brought him to the same career path as his father, “After my father’s death, I did not immediately seek to become a police officer.  I did not want to put my mother and family through another traumatic event if something similar were to happen to me.  I went to Ranken Technical College and, after graduation, sought a job in the construction field.  Like many children of fallen officers, at first, we choose a different career path, but life’s calling directs us back to where we are supposed to be.  This was the case for me 35 years ago”.

Lt. Mike Reifschneider

A 35-year veteran of law enforcement, Lt. Reifschneider continues his father’s legacy by remembering him every day on duty.  “I pass by his photo on the wall which is displayed with photos of other St. Louis County officers that were killed in the line of duty. I remember a time when there were fewer photos hanging on the wall. I have always tried to conduct myself in a way that would not tarnish his name. I believe I have honored him by raising his grandchildren in a way that they, too, decided on their own to become part of the first responder community”.

Lt. Reifschneider reflects on growing up in a first responder family and learning more about his father since entering the field, “My father was killed in the line of duty when I was fourteen. With shift rotations and working secondary, we did not get to see him as often as kids I knew whose fathers were not police officers. The majority of what I know about my father came from stories his friends told me about him once I became a police officer. Later in my career, I was also given copies of his personnel file. I found most of the things mentioned in his rating sheets by his supervisors, whom I later met, were like the things written in mine. Throughout the years I have been told by his friends how much I am like him and remind them of how he conducted himself”.

Lt. Reifschneider notably inherited his father’s traits and work ethic, and instilled the same in his son, Paramedic Jake Reifschneider. “I have tried to pass the same traits along to my son; having integrity, doing what is right even when no one is watching, having a good work ethic, and having compassion for others while being able to stand firm through adversity”.

Paramedic Jake Reifschneider

Paramedic Reifschneider has ambitiously taken on the family legacy by pursuing a career as a first responder. After graduating high school, Paramedic Reifschneider enlisted in the U.S. Air Force Reserve where he served as a medic. Upon completion of his training, he returned home to pursue a paramedic/firefighting career. After completing a paramedic program at Jefferson College in 2017, he graduated from the St. Louis County Fire Academy earlier this year. His nonstop work ethic has led him to serving full time at Union Ambulance District and part time with both the New Haven and Osage Ambulance Districts. As busy as this keeps him, he is still actively working towards becoming a firefighter/paramedic in St. Louis County.

Continuing the family’s heritage of honor was not the only motivator for Paramedic Reifschneider to become a first responder. Paramedic Reifschneider shares, “I decided to become a first responder after my brother, Jonah, passed away from a rare genetic disease. I knew that I wanted to help others just like his hospice nurses helped my family”. Lt. Reifschneider speaks with pride about his son’s choice, “I could not be happier. In todays’ environment, I am glad Jake decided to be a paramedic instead of a police officer. Since he was a child, he had an interest in medicine. With his younger brother having a terminal illness, he assisted his mother and I with his brother’s care daily. He had abilities and compassion beyond his years”.

Both Lt. Reifschneider and Paramedic Reifschneider have had to press on through unimaginable tragedies, but each remains determined to honor his family. Paramedic Reifschneider says, “My grandfather and father have left big shoes for me to fill, but I try to serve others with integrity and honor. I enjoy having the privilege of serving citizens”.  The Reifschneider’s lineage of public service is an inspiration, and their integrity and work ethic a benefit to our community.  In this way, Officer James Reifschneider’s service that began in 1967 continues today, and we are eternally grateful for the ultimate sacrifice he made and the legacy he left behind.

“The BackStoppers is committed to our first responders. They were there on the morning of Saturday, April 30, 1977, and have been assisting my mother as needed for the last 41 years”.

– Lt. Mike Reifschneider

“I would like everyone to know that BackStoppers supports the fallen first responders’ families from day one, and they never stop supporting them.  I have seen an example of their support with my grandma as BackStoppers has been with her.  Knowing that BackStoppers will be there for my family should something happen to me in the line of duty makes it easier to run towards the dangers we face as first responders every day.”  

Paramedic Jake Reifschneider

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Assisting the Family of Auxiliary Officer Ricardo Davis

The BackStoppers is now assisting the family of Auxiliary Officer Ricardo Davis of the Washington Park Police Department who died in the line of duty on October 27, 2018 as a result of injuries sustained when he fell from the Poplar Street Bridge during a foot pursuit.

Auxiliary Officer Ricardo Davis, was 44-years old. He served with the Washington Park Police Department for one year. He left behind six children.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Auxiliary Officer Davis’ family, friends, and fellow officers and co-workers.

 

Auxiliary Officer Ricardo Davis Washington Park Police Department EOW 10/27/18

The BackStoppers assists about 80 families with 65 dependent children and has assisted over 160 families since 1959.

The BackStoppers’ assistance is immediate and ongoing.  Following the death of an officer, his or her family receives a check for $10,000 to be used in whatever way they need.

Within a few weeks, our representatives meet with the surviving spouse to identify the family’s other financial obligations, eliminate the family’s debt, and provide ongoing support for education and other extraordinary expenses.

We recognize the tremendous sacrifices that public servants make every day when they go to work. We understand the burdens placed on surviving spouses and children when tragedies occur. We believe our community has an obligation to care for the loved ones of those who have protected us. We accept the responsibility to make that happen.  Join us in our cause.  Help us provide life-long support for families of fallen heroes by donating or joining online or by mail to the address below.

The BackStoppers, Inc.
PO Box 795168
Saint Louis, MO 63179-0700

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Legacies in the Making

The word “legacy” is often used to describe that which is passed on from generation to generation.  Lin-Manuel Miranda captured the essence of the word when he wrote that a legacy is “planting seeds in a garden you never get to see”.  The brave first responders who make the ultimate sacrifice for our safety never get to see what grows from the seeds they’ve planted; they do not get to witness their own legacy. We have the privilege of witnessing the children of fallen heroes carry out their mother’s and father’s legacy. For some, this is done by choosing to become first responders.

Firefighter/Paramedic Matt Morrison

Firefighter/Paramedic Matt Morrison, Officer David Weinhold and Officer Joe Strehl chose to follow in each of their fathers’ footsteps and enter into public service. They knew firsthand the dedication, hard work and sacrifices of the job before even stepping foot into an academy. Just as their fathers before them, they eagerly commit their lives to protecting and serving the community.

On May 3, 2002, Capt. Robert Morrison of the St. Louis Fire Department sustained injuries attempting to rescue a fellow firefighter from a structure fire. He succumbed to his injuries the following day. This life-altering event is only a part of what his son, Firefighter/Paramedic Matt Morrison, recalls when reflecting on his father’s firefighting career. “I saw how much pride he and his coworkers had for their job, and the brotherhood that came with it.”

Capt. Morrison will never be forgotten for his bravery and sacrifice for the community. He left behind a wife and two children, Matt and Megan, who must live with the void of their father every day. That is where The BackStoppers steps in and gives the family hope for a brighter future after the unthinkable happens. The BackStoppers along with the first responder community showed a perspective to Matt that encouraged him to enter the emergency services field. “BackStoppers revealed a lot of traditions of the fire and police service to me that I had not seen prior to needing their help. Seeing this as a young child had a significant impact on my career choice. I want people to know that BackStoppers has assisted my family in many ways and continues to support us as they have done with over 160 families.”

Matt Morrison is now a firefighter/paramedic with Monarch Fire Protection District. When asked what he wished his legacy to be, he stated, “To be the best firefighter, husband and father that I can be”.

On October 31, 2000, Sgt. Richard Weinhold of the St. Louis County Police Dept. was shot and killed in the line of duty while attempting to evict a man from a residence. Sgt. Weinhold was leading officers up a flight of stairs when the suspect appeared at the top and fired a shotgun into the stairwell. His son, Officer David Weinhold recalls being inspired to become a police officer at a very young age thanks to his father’s respect and status on the force, “I always idolized my father for being a police officer. I vividly remember watching Saturday morning cartoons on Channel 11, and they did a special on the St. Louis County Police Academy. They interviewed my father as the recruits were doing physical training. I always thought that was so cool”.

Officer David Weinhold

Sgt. Weinhold was cherished by many police officers that had encountered him during his 20 years of service. He left behind a wife and four young children that cherished him   as his brothers and sisters on the force did. David remembers the hurt and process of healing along with the support of BackStoppers and a refreshed drive to become a police officer. “When my father was killed it took me a couple of years to really process that. The initial response from The BackStoppers, the St. Louis County Police and the community really showed me how much people cared. I knew if I was given the chance, I wanted to give back to the people who helped my family through the tragedy. From day one, BackStoppers was there. They have been helping my family for 18 years now. If there is anything we need, we know that they will take care of us.”

Like his father before him, Officer Weinhold now serves with the St. Louis County Police Department. He is assigned to the Division of Patrol and is working in the 6th Precinct. Officer Weinhold says, “Every day I show up to work motivated. A day doesn’t go by when some officer, whether from my department or another, says something about my father. All I hear are positive things. Knowing the kind of officer he was makes me work harder and try to live up to his standards”.

When reflecting on what he wants his legacy to be, David poignantly states, “If I am lucky enough to work for this department for 20 plus years, I want people to remember me as a hard-working officer who made a difference each day. If after 20 years, I am remembered as ‘Rick’s Kid’ then I would be just fine with that”.

Officer Joe Strehl

Almost 25 years ago, on November 19, 1993, Det. Stephen Strehl of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and Drug Enforcement Agency was killed in the line of duty in an aircraft accident. While conducting a drug surveillance mission, the helicopter in which he was riding crashed. He left behind his wife and three sons. His youngest son, Officer Joe Strehl, looks back on what moments led to wanting to pursue a career in law enforcement, “I’ve always wanted to be a police officer. My dream was only amplified when I went to college, took classes about policing, and rode along with officers. One event that solidified my passion was when I rode with the Metro Air Support Unit. Even though my family was terrified, I was excited and thrilled to go up with the guys. I even helped call out when a guy was hiding that had just stolen a car and run away from officers. From that ride-along alone, I knew this was the job for me”.

Detective Strehl dedicated his life to the service; his son is reminded every day of his father’s hard work and sacrifice. “I try to honor my dad every day when I go into work. When putting on the uniform, I do my best to honor my dad by being the best I can be and growing as a man and an officer.”

Joe recalls, “The BackStoppers was definitely a driving force behind my dreams of one day becoming a police officer like my dad. Attending the Annual Membership Dinner each year and having a Family Friend come to our house each Thanksgiving really showed me that this organization truly cares about the families of those who have died in the line of duty. To me, The BackStoppers is a second family and you only find this kind of bond in the public safety world”. When asked what he wished the public knew about BackStoppers, he replies, “I would want people to see firsthand the support they give to the families. If someone who knew nothing about the organization saw how they help the families who lose a loved one on duty, they would immediately realize how important BackStoppers is”.

Officer Strehl now serves with the St. Louis County Police Department and is assigned to the West County Precinct. “I want to be remembered as someone who treated everyone with dignity and respect, on- and off- duty. Along with making people laugh once in a while, too”.

We are very proud of the journeys of these three special individuals that we have known since childhood. The BackStoppers will continue to follow them and support them in their endeavors. Most importantly, we will continue to honor and never forget each of their father’s legacies.

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Setting S.A.I.L. For Service

On November 5, 2008, Darnita Riggins’ world was turned upside down when her husband was killed in the line of duty. Capt. Leonard Riggins, Sr. of the St. Louis Fire Department was shot and killed when he stopped on his way home in uniform to assist a crashed vehicle. He turned on the emergency lights on his department vehicle, approached the site of the accident, and was shot by the occupant of the car. Darnita recalls the moments after the tragic event, “I know God loved me and I never questioned Him, but I just could not wrap my mind around Leonard’s death. I could not say his name without crying for years”.

Capt. Riggins lived his life helping others. After his passing, Darnita knew that she had to continue her husband’s mission. “Leonard’s life was a value and I knew if I didn’t want him to be forgotten I had to start a foundation to keep his memory alive. I wanted his legacy to live on through his family and friends that loved him dearly.” Thus began the S.A.I.L. Foundation, “Saving An Innocent Life”, whose mission is to stop teen violence through scholarships in honor of Capt. Riggins. “The Foundation is a passion and therapy at the same time; the loss and pain is so deep.” The Riggins family has always strived to make a difference in the community, and the S.A.I.L. Foundation has provided a way for the family to heal and give back.

All year round, fundraisers are held in the St. Louis area benefiting S.A.I.L.’s scholarship program. Basketball, bowling and skating tournaments draw attention to the mission and provide an opportunity for the community to come together and honor Capt. Riggins. The Back to School Giveaway program provides over 500 backpacks stuffed with supplies for kids gearing up for the new school year. During the holiday season, S.A.I.L. also collects toys and food for other community organizations. Through S.A.I.L., Darnita has shown incredible strength and grace, “I am so proud that Leonard’s legacy lives on through his Foundation. Giving back is so important because you never know when you will be blindsided and have the wind knocked out of you. I am a woman of strong faith”.

When reflecting on how BackStoppers helped Darnita and her family, she shares, “God had BackStoppers carry me through these 10 years! They are always right there when you need them, and the most unique thing people should know about BackStoppers is they are personal to each family. Every family’s need is different and, for my family, my journey could have never been met without them. When I open and close my day with prayer, I always say, ‘Thank you God for BackStoppers’. My Len is not here but they have been a filler for my son and me. BackStoppers committed to be here for the long hall, and I’m here to say they have kept their word”.

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First and Goal

Like many kids, Cole Ziegler, son of fallen hero Deputy Sheriff Steven Ziegler, EOW 09/30/01, dreamed of playing football. He has loved the sport since he was old enough to catch a football, and attended every high school game he could while in grade school. In fact, as soon as Cole’s parents, Racheal and Steven, found out they were having a boy, Steven ran out and bought a football. In hindsight, it was the perfect purchase.

Cole, who just finished his junior season, is currently a star wide receiver and defensive back for the North County High School Raiders. Cole, who also plays baseball and runs track, has already been selected for the Raider Hall of Fame. The Raiders had their best season in many years and finished 9-3. On playing the sport, Cole says, “Football has given me an opportunity to form a brotherhood with my teammates.  We truly are a family.  Football has given me structure. It has taught me to be more responsible.  You give 110% every time you’re on that field, practice or game time”. Cole hopes to continue playing football at the collegiate level.

Cole wears the same number that his father wore: 24. Football is not the only passion he shares with his late father. Cole hopes to pursue a career in law enforcement. Upon completion of his bachelor’s degree, he plans to apply for the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Cole’s mom, Racheal, is also a big fan of the sport. They watch games together every Sunday. Like many parents, Racheal was a little apprehensive when she heard Cole wanted to play football. She describes how she dealt with that by saying, “I just say a little prayer before every game.  I see how much he loves this sport.  Watching him on that field, it’s magical.  He amazes me every time I watch him play.  Every time that boy makes a touchdown, I know his dad is right there with him smiling from ear to ear”.

When sharing her thoughts on The BackStoppers, Racheal said, “We lost so much when Steve was taken from us. Cole was 18 months old and Madison was three and a half years old. The BackStoppers have been our guardian angels. They have never left our side. I give them credit for Cole being able to play this sport he loves. He is able to attend camps and have all the necessary equipment he needs all thanks to The BackStoppers. I don’t know what the kids and I would have done without our angels. They are our extended family”.

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Family and Friends Honor Officer Snyder

This fall, Dr. Adam Snyder organized a golf tournament honoring the memory of his younger brother, fallen hero Officer Blake Snyder.  Dedicated friends Pat and Kim Lawrence, Wesley Strowmatt, and Toby Henesey made up the organizing committee, and the event was a fantastic success.  Held on September 22, 2017 at Rolling Hills Golf Course in Godfrey, IL, the tournament raised over $40,000!

“This was truly Adam’s labor of love supported by long-time friends,” said Dick Snyder, father of Officer Snyder.

BackStoppers Executive Director Chief Ron Battelle and Board member Chief Jim Silvernail joined the committee and members of the Snyder family for the check presentation and expressed gratitude for this wonderful support.

We are very grateful for everyone who gave their time to make this event possible, and everyone who attended and enjoyed the tournament.  Thank you for helping to make our mission possible!

Watch for next year’s tournament by following our Events Calendar.

Pictured left to right: Colton, Beckett, Korby, Sara Snyder, Chief Jim Silvernail, Pat Lawrence, Chief Ron Battelle, Dr. Adam Synder, Wesley Strowmatt, Toby Henesey, Kim Lawrence, and Callie.

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The Voices of BackStoppers: Madison Kowalski

Today is the nine-year anniversary of the death of Sgt. Jeffry Kowalski of St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, EOW 10/01/08. His daughter, Madison, shares her father’s legacy and how she finds strength after the unimaginable.

“It’s going on 10 years now. A decade. Think of all the milestones and memories you gather during 10 years. You graduate high school, then college, start your adult job, have your own place, meet the man you love and start your life. 10 years of moments filled without the person you love most and who created you– the person who made the absolute best of you, the one who never doubted if you had fallen but instead gave you the strength to get back up, the person you loved more than yourself. My father, Sgt. Jeffry Kowalski (SLMPD) died almost 10 years ago, but it still feels like he was here yesterday.  

I think the biggest reason this void in my life hasn’t been as difficult as others is solely because of the support given through The BackStoppers. They have given me the unwavering support and love I know my father would have given. They displayed loyalty and faith in not only our family but the future success that they knew we could achieve. The BackStoppers supported us and opened their arms before anyone else with no questions asked.

They knew my father’s case was special but realized he died over and over again for the people of Saint Louis when he could have easily walked away. Much like The BackStoppers, my father continued to do what was right with just knowing that the greater good was at stake. The BackStoppers gave us hope for the future and humanity through their numerous acts of kindness. Due to this, I often find myself overwhelmed with gratitude and the sense of wanting to give back to each and every person who donated to this elite organization. Each one of you is the reason I am still standing today, and I can’t thank you enough for supporting not just my family but every surviving family that The BackStoppers supports. Thank you, a million times, over. -With the most humility -Madison A Kowalski”

 

 

The BackStoppers currently assists 82 families with 66 dependent children and has supported 161 families since 1959. Our assistance is immediate and ongoing. The BackStoppers’ mission is to financially assist the families of first responders who die in the line of duty by paying off all debt, assuming financial obligations such as mortgage payments, taxes, providing health and dental insurance, and helping with the costs of elementary, secondary, and college/vocational education. Memberships fund our ongoing assistance and provide you with an easy way to support and grow The BackStoppers. To learn more about becoming a BackStopper please visit http://BackStoppers.org/membership/

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There is Always Hope

Elizabeth Snyder and her family are starting a new chapter of life accompanied with challenges and change. Courageously she remains to shine a light and honor her husband, Officer Blake Snyder of the St. Louis County Police Department, EOW 10/06/2016. Months have passed since Blake Snyder was killed in the line of duty, but Elizabeth and her son Malachi strive to be a voice in the community, and hope for a brighter future. 

Being a mother of a young son, Elizabeth beams at her son’s growth, and shares how Malachi remembers his father, “He’s a very happy little boy and seems to mature more each day. He misses his daddy, though. We talk about Blake often and I am constantly reminding him of who his father was and what he has done for all of us. Malachi definitely remembers him but knows something ‘not right’ has happened”. Along with parenting, Elizabeth has moved to a new home with Malachi, and has also gained a new family member, Hank.

“Hank, the new puppy, is awesome,” Elizabeth gushes.   “He’s a wonderful puppy and oh so good with Chi. He loves him and is constantly playing him with. He’s growing so fast, and has almost tripled in size since coming home with us”. Relocating to a new place, Elizabeth explains how the transition has helped her family, “We love our new home! We are very pleased and ever grateful for the relocation and the house. Living near my brother and Malachi’s cousins has been very good for the both of us. It has been so important for us to be near family in the last seven months”.

Many experiences and opportunities have presented themselves to Elizabeth. Perhaps one of the greatest experiences was a visit to Washington D.C. in February to hear the President speak. Elizabeth was accompanied by her brother, Officer Justin Sparks with the St. Louis County Police Department.   “Our trip to Washington D.C. was, in a word, surreal. It was something out of the movies. We were honored and excited to be guests of Rodney Davis and Ann Wagner. While there, we were able to visit the White House as well as meet Vice President Pence. He was a very genuine and heartwarming man. I could tell that he truly cared about what happened to Blake and seems to want to make a true difference in our nation. I was in awe watching President Trump give his address. I felt humbled to be in a place where so much history was contained. President Trump’s speech was thrilling and offered a gesture of hope for our first responders. I am truly grateful to have had such an experience”.

Making a change and shining a light on law enforcement has been in sight for Elizabeth, and she is determined to continue to have her voice and story heard. “I will continue to advocate for law enforcement and for all of our first responders, in any way that I can. I will use what resources I have to help those who do not have a voice”.   When asked about any future endeavors Elizabeth continues, “I also plan to write a book detailing my journey. I hope that what I write can be a beacon to others in my own or a similar situation, while also shedding light on the plights that our officers face each day”. 

Through the pain and trials of this new life, Elizabeth professes to always have hope and faith. “There is always hope. There is always another day, and there is always someone out there who cares. Whether you are going through depression, a divorce, financial issues, or even a death – there is ALWAYS hope. I’ve lost my best friend, my husband. I’ve been persecuted, called names and have been told what to do. But I have held onto my faith, my God, our son, and my family. They are my hope”.

The community has embraced Elizabeth and her family in an incredible way by showing support and love. The overwhelming response has left the Snyders in a state of gratitude. “To our community – thank you. Our world was tossed upside down in an instant, and our community was there every step of the way. We are so thankful to have such amazing citizens supporting us and supporting our law enforcement. I will forever love my St. Louis community. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

The BackStoppers helps many families who like, Elizabeth and Malachi, have been affected by tragedy. By providing a way to a new beginning, and remembering the ultimate sacrifice of the hero that they have lost. Speaking of The BackStoppers, Elizabeth says, “BackStoppers is an absolutely amazing organization. They are truly guardian angels. What they do for families of the fallen is beyond wonderful and I hope the community knows that. Each individual from The BackStoppers has a heart of gold, and we couldn’t be more thankful for them”.

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