Honoring Heroes Foundation
by honorary colonel David Luna
“It was a sunny, clear, blue, hot day of about 103 degrees in July. I was out with the boys having a fun day on the job. We were coming down from Summit heading down to the airport having a good time.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN’S visit was basically over. The motorcade was approaching 201; I was with another motor coming to northbound 215. There was a request made to assist by Redwood Road to make sure streets were closed. So I thought” we have two guys sitting here I could go up to assist”, if that was ok with the other motor. So I throttled down to make sure California was closed and Redwood Road ramps were closed. I pulled over to the right and could see everything was closed; that’s when the other motor passed me. I looked over my left shoulder and could see the motorcade coming up behind me. So I throttled up to the 7th North off ramp. As I was taking the ramp I noticed the other motor in front of me was slowing quickly so I throttled off and started applying my brakes. I noticed he was stopping so I pressed on my brakes harder and thought “I could go around him”. That’s when we collided.”
“Even though it was a hot day I had on all my protective equipment and for some strange reason I had my visor and facemask down. Good thing.. .It saved my face from getting all that gravel from getting into it. I don’t remember flying through the air but I remember hitting the ground and sliding for what felt like a long time. It was only a split second but I had time to think about what was going on. I remember sliding onto the pavement then into the gravel, in the gravel I realized I was still going and now I was headed into the dirt. I got up and knew I was going to have roadrash, but I looked at the gentlemen (another trooper) I had just hit, my first concern was obviously to make sure he was ok. He said he was “fine”, he really didn’t know what happened. Then I remember the motorcade going by and me feeling like a moron; because I had gone down and here is the Vice President of the United States going by me.”
“Someone stopped and got my bike out of the road, the rest of the group went by and the ambulance came up and stopped next to me it was at this time that I looked down at my left wrist and left elbow. I still thought I was ok, I was doing fine but by both my wrist and elbow started getting tight on me. So I was put in the ambulance, they checked me out and found my left wrist was broken and now my right wrist started hurting too. I was embarrassed and started apologizing to my Lieutenant. Then I started getting light-headed, medical personnel strapped me onto the board and took me to the hospital. While in the hospital all the motor guys came in; many of the Captains came by, I felt really embarrassed that this happened. The guys were joking with me and the comradery I received felt like a real brotherhood, a family. Telephone calls haven’t stopped, I went down July 11, surgery the 12th. I had people come to the house, my current Sargent as well as my old Sargent came by. The HHF was absolutely amazing; you plan your year and never expect anything like this to happen.”
Stories like this are not uncommon. As I reflect it all started nine years ago.. .exactly whose idea it was is not entirely known. As the foundation’s first chairman I think I know but he would probably want me to keep his name confidential.
January 14, 2004, at precisely 1500 hours The Utah Highway Patrol Foundation had its inaugural meeting. The original members were Lieutenant Ron Ostler, Captain Michael Kuehn, Sargent Lee Perry, Honorary Colonel David Luna, Steve Goodrich, and John and Barbara Mitchell.
February 11, 2004 meeting minutes reflect that thoughts now turned to whom this new foundation would serve. Two weeks later the board had as its objectives: a non-profit designation from the IRS and raising funds to help others. The board had received the bylaws from California’s 10-99 Foundation. California’s Highway Patrol (CHP) Department’s 10 code of 10-99 is equal to Utah’s 10-33.
February 26, 2004 the name is changed from “The Utah Highway Patrol Foundation” to the “Honoring Heroes Foundation” (HHF). There was a crazy notion presented to have sworn officers be phased out of the board of the HHF. That thought was quickly squashed. To date there have always been at least two sworn troopers on the HHF Board. The Mission Statement after much discussion is finished, now we had our north star.
The Foundation’s purpose was “To protect and provide for fallen and wounded Troopers and for the well-being of the dependents and employees of the Utah Highway Patrol and the Department of Public Safety.”
“At about 6 in the morning my wife started having contractions. We felt that everything was going good we had a doctor’s appointment that day. We figured everything was going to be ok. She didn’t think they were actual contractions because we were three months from her due date. We were first time parents, expecting twins and didn’t know how things progressed. It got to the point that she was in quite a bit of pain and I was asking her when she wanted to go to the hospital. She finally gave in and said let’s go.”
“By the time we got to the hospital her contractions were about a minute and a half to two minutes apart. We went in anticipating that the babies weren’t coming quite yet but that she might be on bed rest. We were at the hospital for maybe an hour, while there they ran some tests and came in and said “the babies are coming today”. At that point I didn’t know what to think when the hospital staff said that. In my mind I was wondering these are our first kids and in my mind three months is way too early to think about coming. I was thinking we may even lose them. The delivery went well, they did a “C” section and the staff said that the twins a little boy and a little girl were doing well. The twins had the normal hurdles they had to get over in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Over all the twins did really well they were there for two and a half months.”
“Then we learned what it was going to cost…”
“We had a small savings but not enough to cover what we were expected to pay. After meeting our out-of-pocket we thought we would be ok, but we weren’t. We went to the approved hospital on our insurance the doctors the hospital used weren’t all approved. We started getting bills that weren’t covered by the insurance. The bills were mounting to $15,000 than $20, 000 and we didn’t have near that much saved and there was still the unknown. The babies were now at home but on monitors so in the back of our minds we are wondering are they going to stop breathing are their hearts going to stop? That’s when I was contacted by the Honoring Heroes Foundation and they asked what could they do? Just to hear that somebody cared and wanted to help at all was phenomenal; it eased some of the stress. Not in just the bills but in peace of mind that there was somebody out there that appreciates what we do and cares”.
July 8, 2004 Fundraising was on the agenda for the Honoring Heroes Foundation, how was the Foundation going to get money for those who were going to need help? We talked about a movie premier, golf tournament, art gallery exhibit and a special license plate.
We also needed a webpage and maybe some brochures to get the word out about who we were, what we were doing and for whom.
December 16, 2004 The ideas kept coming for fund-raising activities some were great some not so: A skiing event was proposed, a motorcycle rally (Hog and Jog) with scheduled stops along a set route, scavenger hunt at restaurants, a 10K fun run (Outrun the Cops, Patrol Stroll and Faster than a Speeding Ticket), maybe an “Honoring Heroes Day” at Lagoon. Some of the ideas started bring in money for example the Auto Dealers Association invited the HHF to be part of a black tie fundraising event. We also talked about the HOPE project and what they were doing and what the HHF could do together.
May 12, 2005 We had our IRS designation, we were officially a non-profit foundation. Great news but also some sad news the small amount we had earned was being requested for worthwhile purposes. It was good and bad, you hope that no one will ever need the money but in your heart you know someone will. The whole creation of the foundation was now being put into play. We needed to get more money. I think people laughed at me when I told them we needed at least a million dollars in our account to make sure the foundation lasted long after we were all gone.
August 2006 The Utah Fast Pass, the event that would put the HHF over the top. Thank you to Hon. Col. Larry H. Miller who with his vision and charity would make the HHF one of the entities to receive funds from this event. If you go to the Utah Fast Pass website it reads: “The charter for Utah Fast Pass is primarily to provide charitable contributions to the UHP’s Honoring Heroes Foundation”. Through the association with the Utah Fast Pass the HHF has been able to help many individuals and their families.
“He was our fourth child, everything was fine no problems with the pregnancy or delivery there were no worries. After we brought him home we noticed his head was shaped a little bit different. We took him to his month’s appointment with this pediatrician and brought up the shape of his head that to us seemed high and flat. The doctor told us they’d keep an eye on his head’s shape and that over time it would correct itself. On later visits they kept checking his head, and the doctor would comment his soft spot was smaller than it should be. “His head is still growing, we’ll watch it”.
“At his 3 month appointment the pediatrician was concerned that the baby might have Cranium Cytosis. I asked how do little kids get this? The doctor said most cases are genetic but I said no one in our family had this. We talked about possible mental retardation however finally ruling everything else out it was decided that ours was a rare case maybe only coming up 1 or 2 cases per year. So it was rare, next we went to Primary Childrens Hospital get CT scan on his head. We took our little 3 month old to Primary still worried and hoping that everything is still OK. Tests were run in the morning results and we were told our results would be back to the doctor in the afternoon.”
“Two days later we still hadn’t heard the results and my wife is freaking out. Finally the results came back showing his soft spot had closed off. There is a little bit of room in his head for his brain to grow but if his brain grows too much and there is no room he could die. Next there was a meeting with the surgeon and he’ll decide if surgery is needed. He explained the risks and how many times he’d done the surgery and he told us about his team. It was nerve-racking it was a plastic surgeon and two neurosurgeons and you are thinking “what, you are working on his brain?” It was a concern and worry. They were going to remove part of his skull and to us it was getting scarier and scarier.”
“This conversation with the doctors at Primary was on a Thursday and they told us that they would call us back on Monday. They told us the reason we got in that day was because of a cancellation other than that it would be done in 3 months. Lab and blood work done Tuesday and he was in there for surgery. How do you prepare a 4 month old for surgery, you can only say you will be alright.”
“Next we found ourselves in the waiting room and don’t know what to expect. We did not know anyone who had had this type of surgery. I remember in the waiting room we talked with this couple and their kid was getting his 3rd open heart surgery. We thought we were blessed.”
“The doctor came out and told us everything went well. We went in to see our little boy and he looked good but tired then as he started to recover he got a high fever. Generally after this type of surgery they want you to stay in the hospital for two days then go can go home but when the fever got to 103 we knew we wouldn’t be going home on time. His head started to swell up his eyes swelled shut, he would scream because of the pain he was in. There was not much you can do when you touch your child and he just screams. You can’t feed, you can’t comfort, you can’t touch your baby you feel helpless. We ended up staying another day. By the morning of the 3rd day his fever finally broke and the swelling finally started to go down and he finally started to eat so they let us bring him home.”
“The Monday before the surgery we needed to go to a place that makes helmets. Our son was going to need a helmet after they opened up his head. The helmet company made a laser scan of his head and now after the surgery they take another scan in order to make a helmet. They were very helpful when we asked how much are the helmets? They told us they are about $3,800 dollars each, so we asked how many will he possibly need? They said usually only 4 helmets are needed. They also said that generally the cost you pay is $500 per helmet after insurance.”
“As anyone who has undergone surgery the hospital charges you for everything. After we brought the little guy home we started to realize “how are we going to pay for everything?”
We had the delivery bills from July, the surgery and now the helmets. We were getting overwhelmed. The hospital bill was $14,500 for room, nurses, medication, a bill from the first surgeon of $12,000, the second surgeon another $12,000 bills plus the original bills from delivery. Our savings were gone!”
“About this time in my life I received a call from my supervisor asking me what I was doing tomorrow. It was the HHF they talked with us and gave my family a check. After that I was talking with my wife and asked “when someone offers you a check how do you show your appreciation?” “How do you express your gratitude?” You can only say Thank You so many times and yet it doesn’t seem to express your feelings. It helps emotionally that there are people out there that care and want to help. It was amazing!”
“Then my new lieutenant calls me up and wants to see me in his office. I don’t know about anyone else but the first thoughts in my mind are “what did I do wrong”,
“where did I screw up”, “whatever I did hopefully it will not reflect poorly on my crew or the Department”. He immediately said don’t worry you’re not in trouble. So I showed up at his office and a gentleman showed up from the Honorary Colonels with a check. Again I go back to my feelings of how do I say thank you.”
December 2012 Funds are sufficient in the HHF account for some of life’s challenges. Many times when we deliver a check we hear. “Give to someone else who needs it more.” That is why we are visiting with all the recipients, this is our mission, and this is what we do. Do we have a million in the account, “No” but we are slowly getting there. If you know of someone the Honoring Heroes Foundation can help please let us know talk to your lieutenant, they know what to do. We may be able to help, together we can continue this great work.