Vail Daily column: Support the Eagle County Emergency Responders Fund |

Vail Daily column: Support the Eagle County Emergency Responders Fund

James van Beek

Who are the first responders to the first responders? Eagle County receives more than 150,000 calls per year for emergency responders. After you’ve rescued your neighbors and friends and suddenly find yourself on the edge of despair because of some sudden event or situation, where do you go when you are the ones on the front line of defense? For many, the motto is, “We never rest, so that you and your family are safe.”

No one becomes a first responder to make a ton of money. None are easy jobs, and all require great sacrifices to one’s personal life, with an implicit threat to bodily injury, including death. On-call 24/7/365, these dedicated professionals have service to the community in their DNA. When not on duty, they often enroll in training sessions to fit around their professional schedules. They pride themselves on being prepared beyond minimum requirements for any possibility, from medical to fire, hostage situations, plane crashes, potential terrorism, natural disasters and beyond.

In addition, you will frequently find them volunteering in community and charitable events all across the county. This is not merely a career choice, but a calling. Yes, these are the people who run into danger when all others are running out. Yet when it is they who face personal tragedy, where can they turn?

While their respective agencies provide traditional employee benefits, oftentimes, the hazards of their jobs make them more vulnerable to certain conditions and situations that require additional support. That support is available from the Eagle County Emergency Responders Fund, a nonprofit committed to raising funds for all emergency responders.

The fund serves the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Eagle River Fire Rescue, Vail Mountain Rescue Group, Vail Public Safety Communications, Avon Police Department, Eagle County Paramedic Services, Beaver Creek Ski Patrol, Vail Ski Patrol, Vail Police Department, Vail Fire and Emergency Services, Eagle Police Department, Greater Eagle Fire District, Gypsum Fire Rescue, Rock Creek Volunteer Fire Department and the Colorado State Patrol.

An example of a few of the situations the Eagle County Emergency Responders Fund supports:

• When a State Trooper was driving to a training program, he was shot four times by a convicted felon while on Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon. He’s required five surgeries, and the community has generously donated more than $16,000 in the past 15 months to aid his recovery. • A firefighter woke up one morning next to his deceased wife, who had passed away unexpectedly in the night. He was naturally devastated, and while handling this crisis, there was a need of approximately $6,000 to cover additional expenses and lost income.

• The Vail Police Department lost a sergeant to breast cancer. She left behind a young daughter. This year will be the third Ragnar Relay Race to raise money for a scholarship fund for her daughter to help realize the dream this sergeant had in sending her young child to college.

• One law enforcement officer had medical issues relating to her pregnancy, which required medical treatment in Denver. While her insurance covered most of it, there were uncovered expenses relating to travel that made the situation prohibitively expensive for her family. She needed help.

• Another firefighter required back surgery, which was denied by her insurance provider. Having a strong back, able to support the equipment and to carry the injured, is critical to her profession. Paying for the surgery herself would have literally driven her to bankruptcy. She needed assistance.

• Children left behind when responders are lost often need support that extends beyond what is traditionally available. Scholarships, funding for emotional support — even things such as school or sports equipment — are things Eagle County Emergency Responders Fund would like to provide.

Donations are greatly appreciated, and there are several events where those donations result in a fun time. The annual H.E.R.O. hockey event, the selling of ducks in the annual Rotary Labor Day Duck Race and the annual SteamMaster Golf tournament at Cordillera Valley Golf Club will be coming up on Sep. 22. Join the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office in supporting this incredible community organization.

James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at

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