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Boots & Badges Gala, Feb. 13


The Color Guard at the Boots & Badges gala.

The Color Guard at the Boots & Badges gala.

Annual event raises support for Fort Bend first responders

By Michelle Johnson

Behind the Badge Charities, in association with its title sponsor, Motorola Solutions, is preparing for the annual Boots & Badges Gala to be held on Saturday, Feb. 13 from 6-11 p.m. at the George Ranch Historical Park Main Arena, located at 10215 FM 762 in Richmond.

The event honors and raises community support for Fort Bend County first responders who put their lives on the line every day protecting the safety, security and lives in our community.

 

Support for First Responders

Behind the Badge Charities is a volunteer organization founded in 2011 in memory of Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Deputy John “J.D.” Norsworthy, who lost his life in January 2011 as a result of injuries sustained in the line of duty. It aids Fort Bend County first responders by providing need-based grants to individual public safety officers who suffer injury, serious illness or emergencies that traditional insurance or other assistance do not cover. Behind the Badge also provides academic scholarships to children and dependents of qualified public safety officers, dedicated in memory of first responders who lost their lives in the line of duty. To date, $300,000 has been awarded through financial aid and scholarship programs.

According to Marshall Whichard, president of Behind the Badge Charities, “Our organization is made up of volunteers. We have no paid help and could always use assistance from the community. All work is accomplished by our volunteers, and we are very proud of this fact.”

 

Ann Carrizales, a former Stafford police officer who was shot while on duty.

Ann Carrizales, a former Stafford police officer
who was shot while on duty.

Response to Tragedy

First responders and police, fire and EMS personnel stand ready 24 hours a day to protect Fort Bend County; Behind the Badge does the same for them.
Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Carlson is very familiar with the benefits offered by Behind the Badge because the family of his best friend, Deputy Norsworthy, were the first recipients of the charity. The initial fundraiser gave Behind the Badge the ability to provide the Norsworthy family with support when they needed it the most. Carlson said, “Behind the Badge Charities reminds us that there are people out there that still appreciate what we do, and are willing to help us in our times of need.”

Former Stafford Police Officer Ann Carrizales knows all too well what support from this organization means. In October 2013, Carrizales was shot in the face and chest while making a traffic stop and was transported by ambulance to the hospital. As Carrizales awaited treatment for her severe injuries, she was informed by partner and friend, Officer Brandon Bolin, that her parents would be on the next flight to Houston from Fresno, California. Carrizales was shocked because she knew that even between them, they could not afford to buy two plane tickets to get them here.

“I knew I wanted nothing more than to have my parents by my side, but I just didn’t think it was possible,” she said. Bolin explained that Behind the Badge purchased tickets for her parents to get here. “I started to cry. I was so relieved and happy to know my mama and papa were on their way. Even at 40 years old, all I wanted was for them to be here with me. It was so vital to my recovery in those first weeks.” Carrizales explained that she never asked Behind the Badge for anything, but the group saw the need and acted on her behalf before she made it out of the trauma room. When asked about what Behind the Badge means to her as a first responder, Carrizales replied, “It means hope and support knowing that someone out there has my back, our backs, during difficult times. I will never forget them.”

Pecan Grove volunteer firefighter and Customer Relations Director Duane Hines has also received amazing gifts of financial and mental support from Behind the Badge. During his annual physical, he learned that he had bone marrow cancer. “It was great having them on my side through this ordeal. The officer that was assigned to my case had also been through a cancer crisis, so he was able to give me support the entire time. It’s comforting to realize that there is an organization like Behind the Badge to help first responders through tragic times.” Thankfully, Hines is on the mend and is in temporary remission.

Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Deputy Danny Beckworth is a recipient of grants from Behind the Badge. “I had a massive stroke in 2014, and was in the hospital for nine days. Behind the Badge put my family in a hotel and gave them a card for meals so that they would not have to drive back and forth from the hospital each day. I was out of work for two months and with their help, I was able to keep up with my financial responsibilities.” According to Beckworth, the assistance provided by Behind the Badge allowed the healing process to go much faster without the stress created by financial hardships. Beckworth is back to work, and on the road to recovery.

 

Community Support

These are just a few of the first responders who have received assistance from Behind the Badge in their time of need. First responders are Fort Bend County’s first line of defense in a crisis situation; Behind the Badge is a first responder to them.

The annual Boots & Badges Gala gives the community the opportunity to show their support for Fort Bend first responders. This year’s event will feature a dinner catered by Safari Ranch, music, dancing and live and silent auctions. Guests will also have an opportunity to meet and visit with first responders and members of Behind the Badge. For more information, visit BehindTheBadgeCharities.org.

Board members (l-r) Mayra Cardenas, David Schultz, Jack Molho, Dr. Shannon Orsak, Marshall Whichard, Lee Hernandez, Casson Wen, Nick Landoski, Bruce Marshall, John Norsworthy, Daniel Quam and Rand Wall; Rick Russek and Ben Zotyka of Motorola Solutions; and board members Mark Flathouse and Ben Simpson.

Board members (l-r) Mayra Cardenas, David Schultz, Jack Molho, Dr. Shannon Orsak, Marshall Whichard, Lee Hernandez, Casson Wen, Nick Landoski, Bruce Marshall, John Norsworthy, Daniel Quam and Rand Wall; Rick Russek and Ben Zotyka of Motorola Solutions; and board members Mark Flathouse and Ben Simpson.

Duane Hines, a Pecan Grove volunteer firefighter., received assistance from Behind the Badge while fighting cancer.

Duane Hines, a Pecan Grove volunteer firefighter., received assistance from Behind the Badge while fighting cancer.


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