LMPD Foundation implementing new program for firefighters and their families
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Spend a few minutes with four-year-old Ethan Zoeller and you'll find an outgoing young boy who loves to play.
“Let's go up here! I want to see the playground. I love this,” Ethan said.
He's happy, carefree, and enjoying a day at the playground. He's come a long way in just three years because of the generosity of the Louisville Metro Police Foundation.
“He was 18-months-old when he had his transplant,” said Sgt. Carmine Zoeller. “When he was born he had all his intestines, but they didn't have nerves in them, so they didn't work. So he couldn't eat by mouth until he had his transplant."
Ethan was in and out of the hospital, sometimes for a month at a time.
His mother, Sgt. Carmine Zoeller with LMPD, had to take leave from work along with her husband and the bills started piling up.
“It was probably one of the most stressful times of our lives,” said Sgt. Zoeller.
It's a feeling that a select group of LMPD officers, like Detective Joshua Jaynes, understand. His daughter Peyton got sick when she was just two-months-old. She wasn't holding any food down and was hospitalized frequently as doctors tried to figure out why.
“She was losing an excessive amount of weight, even in a two day span,” said Det. Jaynes.
On Christmas Day, the family once again had a scare.
“It was just looking at death warmed over. It was the worst thing imaginable,” said Det. Jaynes.
Peyton was sent back to the hospital and eventually fell below her birth weight. It took doctors months of testing to get an answer.
“They did a scope on her and found out that she was highly allergic to milk and protein,” said Det. Jaynes.
Peyton had to have an IV to get the nutrients she needed and Det. Jaynes started worrying about finances.
“Try to take a loan out if I had to. Personal items that we had to start selling to make up for that,” said he explained.
But help quickly arrived for both Detective Jaynes and Sergeant Zoeller.
Through the LMPD Foundation's Officer in Distress program, they received financial help.
Barry Denton, the Executive Director of the Foundation, says on average, they help 20 to 30 officers a year, whether it be financial help, providing food at the hospital -- or even just a phone call -- to make sure they're okay.
“We've had officers who have had children with terminal illnesses. We've had officers themselves suffering from anything from terminal illnesses or being injured in the line of duty,” said Denton. “That program focuses on supporting officers and their immediate families when tragedy strikes."
Now, the plan is to help other first responders.
Money raised from this fall's Hall of Fame Classic at the KFC Yum! Center will be used to benefit LMPD police officers and Louisville metro firefighters in distress.
Captain Casey Hennessy, with Louisville Fire and Rescue, understands how important the support can be.
“About three years ago, while I was riding my bike to work, I was struck from behind by a vehicle and was put in the hospital. I was off duty for about six months,” said Capt. Hennessy.
He had a spinal fusion and wasn't able to get around or work.
“Most firemen have second jobs as well, so while you're off, you can't work your second job, so you're kinda out that,” said Capt. Hennessy.
It was his fellow firefighters who came to the rescue financially and physically.
“I had guys just come out of the blue and stop by my house and want to cut my grass with lawnmowers in the back of their truck,” said Capt. Hennessy. “It's priceless. It was not just me, it was my family, and it's something -- I'm indebted forever."
Now, for the first time, the Louisville Metro Police Foundation will also help firefighters through a new Firefighters in Distress program. With continued donations, the plan is to keep the program going year round.
“It's giving back to those public servants who do so much for us every day,” said Barry Denton.
It's something those that have been helped by the program, like Detective Jaynes and Sgt. Zoeller, don't take for granted.
“I'm forever thankful for what they have done for our family,” said Det. Jaynes.
“We're all one big family, and to see that the community is reaching out and supporting us is wonderful,” said Sgt. Zoeller.
The Hall of Fame Classic will take place on September 11. For more information, click here.
Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All rights reserved.