The Coeur d’Alene Police Foundation seeks to bring better health, wellness and support to both law enforcement and community members
By Taylor Shillam
Photo Courtesy of Coeur d'Alene Police Foundation
In a mission to serve the community and those who protect it, the Coeur d’Alene Police Foundation was formed in October 2019 by a group of officers at the local department who recognized unmet needs in their first responder community.
These needs were in the realm of health and well-being; specifically, a lack of available resources and connections to professionals who could help them process trauma and prioritize their wellness. The officers recognized a need to coordinate and expand upon the department’s existing community children’s outreach programs.
From there, the Coeur d’Alene Police Foundation was born, with the mission of supporting the community along with the lives and well-being of first responders in the Coeur d’Alene area.
“Repeated exposure to traumatic events and the daily grind of dealing with difficult people and situations can really take a toll on first responders,” shared Foundation Member at Large Heather Schmitz. Additional factors, including the common schedule-related sleep deficits, the recent climate surrounding law enforcement, and the COVID-19 pandemic, have also had a significant impact.
That impact has revealed itself in potentially dangerous ways, as higher rates of depression and suicide, higher rates of many forms of physical illness, earlier deaths, and higher divorce rates, among many other hardships, are commonly experienced by members of law enforcement.
“There is an unmet need nationally to provide additional support to counteract the negative impacts of these jobs. As such, we want to do what we can to help in our area,” said Schmitz.
With a strong emphasis on confidentiality, the foundation provides referrals, support and funding for officers to pursue treatment from local health and wellness providers. The foundation also acts as a free resource, compiling a growing list of reputable online and phone-based professional resources listed on their website. “Moving forward, we are looking to expand to offer a more comprehensive wellness program that can be utilized by our department and possibly other agencies,” Schmitz shared.
In addition to being a resource for officer wellness, a major component of the foundation’s community-focused efforts is through their children’s programs. Their primary children’s programs include the Holidays and Heroes event and their annual Holiday Toy Drive for local hospitals.
“The Holidays and Heroes event is a coordinated effort between local agencies and civic organizations,” Schmitz explained. “Area first responders, including officers from our department, are paired with less fortunate children in our community for a morning of shopping and fun.”
Throughout the event, officers help each child select holiday gifts and basic necessities for themselves and their families. The children are then treated to lunch and a visit with Santa Claus. Later, officers deliver the handpicked gifts, along with a donated holiday meal, to each family.
“Our foundation provides volunteers to help wrap the gifts, and we also coordinate our department’s fundraising for this special event,” Schmitz said. “In addition to helping ease the financial burden that the holiday season presents, we also cherish the opportunity to connect with these children and their families in a positive and meaningful way.”
That positive impact is extended through the foundation’s hospital toy drive, which was started in 2015 by a department member who had spent the holiday season with his infant at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital. His experience brought a familiar feeling to others within the department.
“We saw a need to bring a bit of light to these children and their families with toys, smiles and well wishes,” Schmitz explained. “A number of families in our department have spent a significant amount of time at both Sacred Heart and Kootenai Children’s Hospitals, so his vision was quickly adopted and shared by the department.”
To make the toy drive a reality, department officers and volunteers donated time to solicit toy donations from community members across multiple weekends during the holiday season. Volunteers would also gather monetary donations from individuals and local businesses, used to purchase additional toys and items for the children and their families.
“To date, with an amazing amount of help from our community, we have donated an estimated $94,000 in toys to Sacred Heart and Kootenai Children’s Hospitals,” Schmitz shared. “We absolutely love the opportunity this event provides to connect with so many members of our community and the small impact we are able to create for each of these special kids.”
Along with the impact of its large-scale events and programs, the impact of the Coeur d’Alene foundation reaches close, personal levels through special requests inspired by interactions between officers and community members.
One example from earlier this year saw the foundation purchase clothing and necessities for a teenage girl who was removed from her family setting and placed into foster care. The officer involved in the process noticed the teen had very few personal belongings, and asked the foundation to step in.
“We jumped on the opportunity and promptly delivered clothing and necessities to help ease her transition,” Schmitz said. That’s just one example of the many stories and moments delivered by the foundation that affirms the importance of their organization on a daily basis.
The Coeur d’Alene Police Foundation receives its support and funding from donations provided by department officers, local businesses and individual community members. Its major fundraising event is the K27 Memorial Spring Fundraiser. Set to be an annual event, the fundraiser kicked off this year on May 2.
Although it wasn’t yet the complete event they had envisioned, the fundraiser was a success.
“We had planned a community event and fun run for May 2, but decided to postpone that event for one year due to uncertainties around restrictions for community gatherings,” Schmitz explained. “We instead held a raffle to help support our first responder programs for this year.”
The raffle’s success gave the foundation all the more hope for continuing to gather support in the future. “We can’t wait for the opportunity to hold the bigger community event,” Schmitz shared. “It will serve as both a fundraiser and as a way to join together as a community to honor and commemorate Sergeant Greg Moore, who we lost in the line of duty on May 5, 2015.”
Community members in the Coeur d’Alene area and beyond have many opportunities to contribute. Monetary donations to the foundation’s specific programs or to its general fund can be made online at CdAPDFoundation.org , or sent by mail to 3818 North Schreiber Way, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83815.
Additional ways to contribute to the foundation’s efforts throughout the year include purchasing toys during their annual toy drive, or signing up to volunteer at next year’s K27 Memorial Fun Run, set to take place once again in early May.
The foundation is looking to grow the list of recommended providers and wellness professionals provided on their website, specifically providers with first responder experience. Recommendations for such resources can be submitted through their website.
Seeking support through funding has been one of the most difficult hurdles faced by the Coeur d’Alene Police Foundation in delivering their mission.
“Our area is home to many generous citizens and also an extraordinary number of nonprofits who are striving to make our community a better place. We are all doing good things, but we are also all competing for donations,” Schmitz explained. “This is a good thing, and we are unhampered by the challenge, but it is a factor.”
She notes the generous local community as a positive challenge. “Our community is quite supportive, and we very much appreciate that fact,” she added, especially appreciative of the support in the midst of a challenging climate surrounding law enforcement over the past year.
They look forward to continuing to provide support and hope to the local community, while strengthening the bond it shares with the Coeur d’Alene Police Department.