Most foundations don’t start out with a goal of never needing to use its resources.
But the Lorain County Blue Foundation isn’t like other organizations.
The nonprofit is a network of Lorain County law enforcement officers and dispatchers that works as a support system for other officers. If the Lorain County
Blue Foundation is needed, it means that the worst has happened — a fellow officer has been critically injured or killed.
After crashing his motorcycle while responding to a domestic violence call, Avon police Officer Pete Soto suffered severe injuries and spent weeks in the hospital with his family by his side in 2010.
The Greater Cleveland Police Officers Memorial stepped up to help. They brought pillows and blankets to the family, knowing that they would be sleeping at the hospital. They brought coolers filled with water and snacks. Whatever they could do to help, they did.
And when Elyria police Sergeant James Kerstetter was killed in the line of duty, they were there again.
“I wanted to do something in Lorain County,” Barton said.
“I’ve seen Greater Cleveland at work, and it is tough for them covering all of the counties. I thought this is a chance for us to get out in front of this for once.”
Avon police Officer Chris Barton, with the help of his colleagues, organized a chili cook-off to benefit Soto. The nearly $14,000 raised from the event went to
Soto’s family. A second cook-off was held in February with more than $10,000 in proceeds going to the Lorain County Blue Foundation. Now, the organization is planning the Lorain County Blue Pig Roast on Aug. 18.
Proceeds from the pig roast, which will include a live band and 50/50 raffles throughout the night, will benefit the Blue Foundation.
“The foundation is a good idea,” Soto said. “The only other department that has something similar is Cleveland. Cleveland has 71,000 officers. They can afford to do it. Here, one department on its own couldn’t afford it. By bringing all of the departments in Lorain County together, we can help out when someone is injured. We can help the families instead of relying on Cleveland all of the time.”
That’s not to say that the Greater Cleveland Police Officer’s Memorial isn’t appreciated. In fact, it is the model of what Lorain County Blue Foundation hopes to become, Soto said.
The brotherhood already is here.
When Soto was injured, officers from around Lorain County were helping out at home while he was in the hospital. Whatever needed done, they would do — from feeding the dogs to cleaning the pool.
“The Lorain County Blue Foundation will help monetarily, but the support has always been there,” Soto said. “We’re not going to raise millions, but every little dime helps.”
It’s all about putting the family at ease as much as we can, said Avon police Officer Andy Kehl.
Kehl has worked with Barton on the various fundraisers.
“You never know when something is going to happen,” Kehl said. “When something happens to someone you care about, you’re already panicked. You’re not thinking about all of the little things. Anything we can do to help make them feel at ease, we want to do.”
Months after Soto was injured, his wife told him how much it meant to have everyone helping out, he said.
“She said that she always heard me talk about it as a brotherhood and that we’re all one big family, but she never realized what it meant until I was hurt,” Soto said.
For more information about Lorain County Blue Foundation, or to purchase tickets to the Lorain County Blue Pig Roast, contact Barton at Cbarton@avonpd.com.
Contact Chrissy Jolliffe at 329-7155 or email@example.com.