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10-7 Outdoors: Philanthropy From the Heart Honoring Fallen Officers & Their Families

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Giving of yourself to make someone else’s life better feels good, there’s no denying that fact. But, some charitable initiatives can have a greater impact on kids, in particular, than you may think. There are people developing value-driven opportunities to help children that have experienced a tremendous loss to continue to grow and develop deep roots in family, community, and life, and they’re located right here in the Lone Star State. A fine example of this is 10-7 Outdoors: a group of full-time police officers from North Texas who honor officers having fallen in the line of duty by mentoring the officer’s child or children through hunting and fishing trips. A registered a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, this group is so much more than a charity number and a name (which appropriately references law enforcement code for “out of service”). It’s a mindset combined with a way of being that’s enveloping the kids it cares for with good sportsmanship, powerful ethics, and genuine love.

10-7 Outdoors: Philanthropy from the Heart Honoring Fallen Officers & Their Families

Photo: 10-7 Outdoors

The founding members of this group are all full-time law enforcement officers who were raised to hunt and fish. They have also all, sadly, been affected by the loss of a co-worker and friend in the line of duty. They wanted to find a way to give back to their communities that combined their love of their jobs with their outside interests. And so, in 2014, they came up with a plan to provide great outdoor experiences for the children of officers who were killed in the line of duty, honoring their parents and their values, while also teaching the kids fish and game management, hunting ethics and techniques, firearm safety, and many more valuable topics. Their goal is to maintain the memory of the parent for that child, while devoting time to them, continuing to support, and help guide them through a rough time in their lives via mentorship.

10-7 Outdoors: Philanthropy from the Heart Honoring Fallen Officers & Their Families

Photo: Facebook/10-7 Outdoors

Parents of children who’ve attended hunting and fishing trips with 10-7 Outdoors have nothing but the utmost to say about the entire process. At no cost to the family, their child or children (some go in groups of two, three, or four, including parents) are transported to Texas, to a ranch or guide service location for a fully coordinated, once-in-a-lifetime hunting or fishing trip (or a mixture of both, depending on the child’s interests), lending itself to structured, wholesome healing time, with comradery and compassion which is second-to-none. Coming from the “family in blue” themselves, parents’ testimonies about the experience that their child has had on their own trip mirror each other’s in that the members of this group go above-and-beyond to ensure the inclusion, safety, and heartfelt understanding for the child and their circumstances. The loss of a parent under any condition is bad enough, let alone the magnifying glass it can be put under when the parent was a law enforcement officer. The void that this leaves behind for years to come can never be filled. However, all parents that have looked to this group for their assistance and services have come away feeling that they have added to their family group simply by knowing its members.

10-7 Outdoors: Philanthropy from the Heart Honoring Fallen Officers & Their Families

Photo: 10-7 Outdoors

Before, during, and after a guided youth hunting or fishing trip, the guys at 10-7 do their best to get to know the child and their family with whom they’ll have the privilege of honoring and taking into the great outdoors. They learn the circumstances under which the law enforcement parent was lost; they learn about siblings and remaining parents; they learn about the child in question’s outdoor interests, skill levels, and personality. In speaking with Shannon Edwards from the state of Michigan, whose child was taken on a guided hunting trip on the anniversary date of her husband’s passing (“End of Watch” as it’s referred to), she explained that from start to finish, there was no doubt in her mind that the trip would be beneficial. In respecting the date, paying homage to her husband, and treating her son with the utmost respect and compassion, Kris and Justin made an investment in her son that could never be determined nor replaced monetarily.

10-7 Outdoors: Philanthropy from the Heart Honoring Fallen Officers & Their Families

Photo: 10-7 Outdoors

Kris Caldwell, Justin Leathers, and Mike Bali, as far back as they’ve recalled, have been raised with a passion for outdoorsmanship. The fact that they share the same line of work, and the same heartfelt compassion for the families of fallen officers, only made all the more sense to them as they continue to be humbled by their ability to spend time with and mentor those officers’ children. Through the donation of time, space, and experience, their group has successfully completed hunts at Texas ranches or guided fishing trips in our waters for 20 youth – a mixture of nine girls and 11 boys. Through sponsorship by these businesses or their respectful owners, they’ve had the pleasure and privilege of visiting Elk Meadows Ranch in East Texas, the Guest Ranch in Strawn, Lone Star Hunts in Clay County, Hill Top Ranch Exotics in Coupland, and parts of Somervell County for some great hunting, as well as Baffin Bay (near Corpus Christi), and beautiful Lake Buchanan for some fine fishing opportunities.

10-7 Outdoors: Philanthropy from the Heart Honoring Fallen Officers & Their Families

Photo: 10-7 Outdoors

At zero cost to the child’s family, 10-7 Outdoors has managed to make contact with ranch owners throughout Texas, police officers that are interested in volunteering or donating, as well as sport guides and charitable contacts to connect the right trip with the right youth. Based on experience, age, and interest in outdoor activities, the group works with a parent who has placed their child on the waiting list (sadly, there is a waiting list due to the number of fallen law enforcement officers we continue to have here in the United States), and develops an all-encompassing experience, from travel and accommodations, to meals and amenities of the trip, to the personal attention that each child receives. April Key’s son was the very first to participate in a guided hunting trip with the group in 2015 and explained that it was a completely different experience from anything they had ever participated in before. Based on the relationship that was built, the healing that took place, and the obvious passion that the staff of 10-7 Outdoors had for ensuring her son received the greatest experience, she explained that they’ve made lifelong friends, and continue to be a part of their special events to this day – recently attending her son’s grade eight graduation on their own time.

10-7 Outdoors: Philanthropy from the Heart Honoring Fallen Officers & Their Families

Photo: 10-7 Outdoors

Bringing families to trips in Texas not only from throughout their home state but also Oklahoma, Louisiana, Colorado, and Michigan, Kris, Justin, and Mike have clearly taken their mission of honoring fallen officers by allowing their children these once in a lifetime experiences and made that into a full-blown supportive process, but they’ve made an impact on lives that can never be repeated nor replaced. Amy Padron’s family was taken on a dual hunting/fishing trip, allowing them the chance to connect in the outdoors, experience family fun, and learn something new. She noted that upon the passing of an officer, many people will make the offer to be there for the family. And although this is truly meant, the opportunity to be present in the days, months, and years ahead are few and far between. With this guided outdoor trip, she felt that the group put forward their greatest effort to make her family feel like their own. They transferred responsible hunting knowledge, assisted in securing a phenomenal fishing experience, and she truly felt that there were no real words to describe the value that trip held for them, nor the gratitude she felt on her children’s behalf.

10-7 Outdoors: Philanthropy from the Heart Honoring Fallen Officers & Their Families

Photo: 10-7 Outdoors

For the families, the kids, the co-workers, and community members, there will ultimately always be a hole in life resulting from the loss of their fallen officer, doing what they loved for their communities and being taken from this world in the line of duty. But to a small existing group, and now a growing waiting list, 10-7 Outdoors is working, one family at a time, to make a connection, pass on their passion for and knowledge of the great outdoors, and support, in any way they can, a child who’s lost their parent in this respect. If you’re interested in volunteering your property, services, or would like to make a monetary donation to see that their work can continue to flourish and potentially broaden, please feel free to reach out to their group at the email link provided here. For more information or to get recent updates, you can visit their website, or follow their Facebook page. In the years ahead, they’ll continue their Texas trips, adding to their services, their growing network of children they’ve reached out to, and potentially having some of them back to pay-it-forward, if you will – helping to show kids like themselves what they have the capability to achieve despite their reason for coming together. Kris Caldwell, Justin Leathers, and Mike Bali have Texas-sized hearts for what they do, and it shows in each child’s experience, each parent’s testimony, and each smiling, happy face that results from a trip with 10-7 Outdoors.