The BackStoppers serves 18 counties in Missouri and Illinois. Because the region served by BackStoppers extends beyond St. Louis, we rely on groups of supporters who volunteer their time to help raise awareness of and funds for our mission in the outlying counties of our coverage area. These groups, called Outlying County Supporter Groups, are integral to the growth of our cause. We are honored to share with you the efforts of the Monroe County supporter group.
Fifteen years ago, Monroe County was added to the BackStoppers coverage area. Deputy Larry Gardner and Deputy Sgt. Dan Hannon of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department led the way for Monroe County BackStoppers by encouraging the community to support the mission of BackStoppers. Advisory Board member and Family Friend Deputy Larry Gardner reflects on the early stages of Monroe County BackStoppers, “We had huge support from local politicians, police and fire chiefs, the Sheriff and the general public. We knew Monroe County could generate the support we needed to become BackStoppers. Monroe County is supportive of all its law enforcement and emergency services”.
The first Saturday in March holds a very special evening for Monroe County. Their annual Trivia Night, which brings in over $24,000 each year for BackStoppers, takes a large committee and months of preparation. Committee meetings beginning in January are held every other week leading up to the Trivia Night. “We have a great group of volunteers, in addition to our committee members, that donate time working our events. We have firefighters, police officers, paramedics and their spouses who religiously donate hours of their time to help. I can’t say enough about the group of people we have assembled on our committee. Every one of them brings something to the table. We could not begin to do this without each one of them”. This dedicated group executes the favored fundraiser that is not only a great time, but a chance to bring awareness to the cause.
Deputy Gardner shares one of his proudest moments of the annual Trivia Night, “It is a proud moment for us to present a large check to BackStoppers every year. It makes all the hard work worth it! I believe we might still be one of the largest fundraisers on this side of the river”. March 2019 will mark the 15th anniversary of the Trivia Night.
Monroe County continues to support and spread awareness of BackStoppers during the summer months. The Brat Stop fundraiser held in July draws in crowds with a massive, eye-catching banner and, of course, brats. Last summer Monroe County BackStoppers also participated in the Sonnebergs Big Green Eggs Festival. Because of the work of Monroe County and the support of the community, they have presented over $300,000 to BackStoppers throughout their history!
This small group with a big heart has plans to further engage the community. Recently, Monroe County has gained their own space where they are able to plan future fundraising events and generate support.
Beyond the organizing, coordinating and putting on great fundraisers, Monroe County has kept the families we assist their sole purpose. Deputy Gardner says, “BackStoppers’ mission is important because without BackStoppers a family could be totally devastated. To take away an income, not to mention the emotional stress of losing a spouse, father or a mother could lead to disaster for a family. With BackStoppers there will be no financial stress, and they will do what they can to help with the emotional stress. We feel very privileged to be a small part of this well respected organization”.
“We greatly appreciate the dedication of all those in Monroe County that help us to carry out our mission of serving families of fallen first responders. We could not do what we do without the continued loyalty and love from these friends of BackStoppers. Thank you, Monroe County!” —-Chief Ron Battelle, BackStoppers Executive Director.
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”.
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 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
Metro West Firefighters continue to remember and honor Chief Jim Silvernail who passed away on April 25, 2018. In his honor the Firefighters have created a helmet and window decal that display each of the departments with which Chief Silvernail served; Creve Coeur Fire Protection District, Metro West Fire Protection District, and Mehlville Fire Protection District. The proceeds of the decals will benefit BackStoppers.
Chief Silvernail served on the BackStoppers Board of Directors, as a Family Friend volunteer, and as an Event Representative. His commitment to the mission of BackStoppers will forever be imbedded in our hearts. His legacy will forever live on in our organization, the lives of those we help, and the community. We are eternally grateful for his service. His zeal, kindness, and heart will never be forgotten and will continue to be a part of the work we do. Our thoughts and prayers are with Chief Silvernail’s family and everyone whose life he touched as a firefighter, Fire Chief, BackStoppers supporter, and friend.
To Purchase The Decal Please Click HereRead More
We honor and remember Fire Chief (Ret.) Jim Silvernail and his remarkable dedication to the families we serve. Chief Silvernail served on the BackStoppers Board of Directors, as a Family Friend, and as an Event Representative. His commitment to the mission of BackStoppers will forever be imbedded in our hearts. His legacy will forever live on in our organization, the lives of those we help, and the community. We are eternally grateful for his service. His zeal, kindness, and heart will never be forgotten and will continue to be a part of the work we do. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Silvernail family.
Guns ‘N Hoses has once again broken a record in their 31-year history, raising $700,000 for BackStoppers! Since 1987, Budweiser Guns ‘N Hoses has contributed $6.8 million to the BackStoppers mission. These staggering numbers are not possible without the help and dedication of those that work all year round to make this event such a success. The Guns ‘N Hoses committee who organizes the event every year, the first responders that take the time and dedication to train and compete, the sponsors that give so generously to support the work of our mission, and the volunteers that give hours of hard work are all part of what makes this Thanksgiving Eve tradition so special.
These funds will provide assistance to the approximately 80 families with 65 dependent children we currently assist. The love and support from the community shows through this incredible commitment to our mission of helping families of first responders when tragedy strikes.
Our most sincere thanks to every single person who made this possible. Guns ‘N Hoses, we’re excited for what the 32nd Annual Event has in store. Thank you for 30th years of legendary support!Read More
The Spirit of St. Louis Campaign has officially concluded with a lucky winner! Since November, the community has come together in the spirit of giving and has supported the mission of BackStoppers, Variety the Children’s Charity, and St. Louis Area Foodbank. A $10 donation to any of the three charities was entered into a drawing to win a car, truck or SUV.
The total amount raised was over $170,000 including a generous donation from Bommarito Automotive Group of $50,000! The winner was Jason Woodworth, which was announced during the St. Louis Auto Show.
We would like to thank Fox 2 and KPLR 11 and Bommarito Automotive Group for their generosity and commitment to the community. We are incredibly grateful for everyone that donated to BackStoppers in the spirit of giving, community, and St. Louis.Read More
You met Whitney Neal, daughter of St. Louis County Police Detective Willie Neal, Jr., EOW 1/29/97, last year. When Whitney was featured in the June 2016 issue of The BackStoppers newsletter, she was enrolled in a competitive Pathologists’ Assistant program and looking ahead to her dream career. Since then, Whitney has completed the program, passed the certification exam, acquired a job at a hospital, and already been promoted to a lead position. She’s very happy in her new fulfilling career, learning while teaching and making a difference in patients’ lives.
Now a Certified Pathologists’ Assistant, Whitney works at a large hospital that she says “offers a nice variety of things to do. I perform autopsies, help run brain conferences, and do gross dissections and dictations on a large variety of cases, some of which can be very complicated”. As she planned while studying in the program, she now works directly with Pathologists’ Assistant students. “So, I am learning a lot while teaching,” she says.
Whitney is also helping a lot. By helping Pathologists reach a diagnosis, she’s also helping clinicians to decide the best treatment options, which leads to the best overall patient care. “It feels good to know that you are making a difference in patients’ and their families’ lives, even if it isn’t as direct as other medical professionals. I enjoy being in the background because helping patients isn’t about the recognition for me,” she says, “I just enjoy knowing that I played a role”.
Things are moving quickly for Whitney, and she continues to push toward her goal of becoming an Assistant Director of a Pathologists’ Assistant program who is able to continue practicing as a Pathologists’ Assistant. Great dedication is required to be accepted into the selective program, graduate, and move into such a challenging career. Whitney has shown that dedication, and, thanks to her hard work, is now fulfilling her dream. “I’m really happy to have accomplished this goal that I set for myself, and to have passed my certification exam. It really makes all the hard work worth it.”
We’re honored to help children of fallen heroes turn their dreams into a reality. Whitney tells us, “I would not be where I am without all the support from this amazing organization. The BackStoppers has helped make this dream possible.” Our Education Fund ensures that children of fallen first responders will have access to financial resources to pursue elementary, secondary, or post-secondary educational opportunities. Find out more at BackStoppers.org.
It is the season of giving! Fox 2 and KPLR 11 has kicked off the Spirit of St. Louis Campaign in support of BackStoppers, Variety, the Children’s Charity of St. Louis and St. Louis Area Foodbank. Bommarito Automotive Group has teamed up with Fox 2 and KPLR 11 and has provided a car, truck and SUV that will be presented to lucky winners on at the St. Louis Auto Show on January 26th. A ten dollar donation will be the entry to win one of the vehicles.
The morning of the Kick Off came with a surprise from John Bommarito and Chuck Wallis who generously donated $50,000 in support of all three charities. Joe Strehl, who is the son of Detective Stephen Strehl, EOW 11/19/1993 was there to represent BackStoppers during the live coverage of the Kick Off.
The Spirit of St. Louis Campaign’s goal is raise $250,000.
Our friends at the Ameren Corporation are encouraging their employees to support our mission by becoming BackStoppers. The company is organizing an internal campaign whose goal is to generate BackStoppers memberships.
We were honored to attend the launch of the Ameren Member Drive, where passing employees could learn more about what it means to become a BackStopper. Among the guests, were Cindy Ballman, surviving spouse of Officer Tom Ballman who was killed during the tragic Kirkwood City Hall shooting. Also present was Pippy, a K9 from St. Louis County.
Tim Reagan who is on the Board of Directors for BackStoppers, and also head of security at Ameren had this to say about what the BackStoppers means to him:
“During my 35 years with the St. Louis Police Department, 17 St. Louis Metropolitan Police Offices were killed in the line-of-duty. The pain and uncertain future experienced by the families of those officers was heartbreaking. First responders have immense respect for other first responders and for every one of those 17 tragic deaths the BackStoppers was one of the first to respond. The support the BackStoppers provided to those families in terms of bringing financial certainty cannot be overstated.”
We would like to thank Ameren for their incredible dedication to our mission. These memberships provide unlimited help to the families of our fallen heroes. We could not do what we do without the support from this community.
Become a BackStopper Today.