Supporting Heroes' families
Eric Johnson served his community for nine years as an EMT and 15 as a police officer. Following the line of duty deaths of friends, he became involved with a national police survivors organization in 1997. In 2000, he helped start the Kentucky chapter.
During his four years as Chapter Director, he encountered survivors of officers killed in the line of duty who, in addition to overwhelming grief, were almost immediately concerned about their future – being able to maintain the family home and feed their children. Although there are state and federal benefits, there is a delay of several months before either is received. In the past, many came close to losing their homes. Some did.
After continued frustration, he pulled together a small group of friends and created what is now Supporting Heroes – a non-profit organization to support families of fallen public safety workers. Initially, the plan was to cover police in Kentucky, but it quickly changed to provide the same support to firefighters and EMS workers and to extend coverage to Indiana as well.
Supporting Heroes began operations on 9/11/2004. Since then, the organization has responded to 87 line of duty police, fire, and EMS deaths in the two states. The initial commitment was to respond with $3,000 emergency funds and to bring peer support to families within hours of a tragedy. In 2006, the commitment was raised to provide on-going monthly support until state or federal benefits were received.
Eric Johnson has been the driving force behind Supporting Heroes. He knew it would take significant commitment of someone’s time and effort to make the vision reality. So on 7/31/2044 he retired from Louisville Metro Police to become the organization’s Executive Director. He has personally responded to 84 of the 87 line of duty deaths – remaining on-call 24/7/365 – and was the organization’s principal fundraiser until several months ago. He helped create and now leads memorial teams in both states and has been the lead funeral coordinator for many fallen heroes.
It was Eric’s vision that brought Supporting Heroes into existence. The organization has responded to tragedy after tragedy and assisted families of public safety heroes in their darkest hours – “…honoring the service and sacrifice of those who make the supreme sacrifice by caring for the loved ones left behind.” Eric and the organization do not abandon families after funerals but stay in contact and provide support long afterward. They have also reached out to survivors of heroes past (before Supporting Heroes was founded) and provided support to them as well. Eric has become a recognized authority on line of duty death and teaches classes to public safety leaders helping prepare them and their agencies for tragedy.
Supporting Heroes has had a significant positive impact on the families of many who have given their lives in service to others – and will no doubt serve many more in the years to come.
Because of his vision and years of dedication and personal sacrifice to the cause, I hereby nominate Eric Johnson for the Rare Life Award.