Supporting Heroes was born when a small group came together in early 2004 to discuss an idea about helping public safety personnel in their community. One of those present was Bill Keithley - father of Saint Louis Police Officer Gabriel Keithley. Officer Keithley had recently been shot and seriously wounded in the line of duty and his partner, Officer Nicholas Sloan, had been killed. Bill had watched as the public safety family in Saint Louis united to support Gabe, Gabe's family, and the family of Officer Sloan. He had also watched in amazement as the BackStoppers - a Saint Louis support organization for public safety families - helped the family of his son's partner.
Also present was Eric Johnson, a leader of the Kentucky Chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors - an organization that provides peer support to families and co-workers of police officers killed in the line of duty. While the peer support provided by that organization on a national level is unparalleled, he had been consistently frustrated by the lack of financial support that was available to families following a line of duty death. It had long been his dream to help form a local organization similar to The BackStoppers to provide the much needed support. By the end of the first meeting, the group had decided to make that dream a reality. Hence, Supporting Heroes was born.
“Our mission is to honor the service and sacrifice of public safety heroes who give their lives in the line of duty - by caring for the loved ones they leave behind.”
While the group originally set out to achieve those goals in the Louisville, Kentucky area, it decided that the need was so great that the scope should be broadened. When operations began, all police, fire, and EMS personnel in all of Indiana and Kentucky were covered.
Capturing the symbolism that September 11th has for all Americans with respect to its public safety heroes, the date was selected to launch the ambitious venture that was Supporting Heroes. Armed with only the membership dues of the original eight board members, the new organization declared “We'll be there when tragedy strikes”.
Sadly, it took only 13 days to put that commitment to the test when, on September 24th 2004, Butler University (Indiana) Officer James Davis was shot and killed.
The focus of the young organization was to deliver $3,000 of ‘emergency funds’ to families as quickly as possible following a line of duty death. In the early days, it struggled to do so. Since then, the support has grown and expanded in many ways:
Unfortunately, it is inevitable that more brave men and women will fall in the line of duty. When tragedy strikes, Supporting Heroes will ‘be there’ to take as much of the burden away from survivors as possible - freeing them to focus on the things that are truly important: their family and their grief.
On March 12th, 2016 in an effort to serve more families and in response to the requests of many, Supporting Heroes expanded coverage to the entire state of Missouri. Where support organizations already exist, Supporting Heroes will augment the services and support already provided.