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”.