Coping Strategies for Trauma Among First Responders: Navigating the Aftermath of Crisis

First responders are the unsung heroes of our communities, facing life-threatening situations with courage and determination. However, the very nature of their work exposes them to traumatic events that can leave lasting emotional scars. Recognizing and addressing the impact of these experiences is crucial for their mental health and overall well-being. This blog post explores practical coping strategies for managing trauma, aiming to support first responders in their journey toward recovery and resilience.

Coping Strategies for Trauma Among First Responders: Navigating the Aftermath of Crisis

Understanding the Impact of Trauma

Trauma in first responders can manifest in various forms, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), feelings of anxiety, depression, and burnout. The cumulative effect of experiencing traumatic events repeatedly can lead to emotional numbing, hyperarousal, intrusive thoughts, and avoidance behaviors.

These symptoms can significantly impact their personal and professional lives, affecting their ability to function effectively. It’s imperative to acknowledge the severity of these issues that first responders face and the importance of seeking appropriate support to navigate the complex emotions and challenges.

Coping Strategies for Trauma

1. Peer Support Programs

Peer support programs offer a safe space for first responders to share their experiences and feelings with colleagues who understand the unique pressures of their work. These programs can foster a sense of community and belonging, reducing feelings of isolation and stigma associated with seeking help. Peer support can facilitate open discussions about mental health, encourage the use of coping strategies, and provide a network of support that promotes healing and resilience.

2. Professional Counseling and Therapy

Seeking professional help from therapists or counselors trained in trauma and PTSD is crucial. Therapeutic approaches like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and exposure therapy have been effective in treating trauma symptoms. These interventions can help first responders process their experiences, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and work through the emotions associated with traumatic situations, leading to improved mental health outcomes.

3. Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, and deep-breathing exercises, can help reduce stress and anxiety levels. These practices encourage a focus on the present moment, helping first responders break the cycle of intrusive thoughts and hyperarousal associated with trauma. By integrating these techniques into their daily routines, first responders can enhance their emotional regulation skills and foster a sense of calm and clarity in their lives.

4. Physical Activity and Exercise

Regular physical activity and exercise are powerful tools for managing stress and improving mental health. Engaging in activities like running, cycling, swimming, or team sports can help release endorphins, the body’s natural mood elevators. Exercise can also serve as a constructive outlet for releasing tension and frustration, improving sleep quality, and boosting overall energy levels, contributing to a stronger, more resilient mental state.

5. Building a Supportive Community

Creating a strong support network outside of work, including family, friends, and community groups, can provide emotional support and a sense of belonging. Participating in social activities, hobbies, and volunteer work can offer positive distractions, helping first responders reconnect with their identity beyond their professional roles. This supportive community can act as a buffer against the stresses of work, offering encouragement and understanding during difficult times.

Prioritizing First Responder Well-Being

Coping with trauma is a challenging journey for first responders, requiring courage, self-awareness, and the willingness to seek support. By embracing a combination of peer support, professional therapy, mindfulness practices, physical activity, and building a strong support network, first responders can develop effective strategies for managing trauma.

Both individuals and organizations need to prioritize mental health as a critical component of first responder well-being. Together, we can create a culture of support and resilience, ensuring that those who protect and serve our communities have the resources they need to heal and thrive.

First Responders Foundation

The mission of the First Responders Foundation is to serve and honor all our First Responders, Veterans and their families; build appreciation and respect for their work; and enhance public safety. For more information, visit First Responders Foundation, or contact us.

Addressing Burnout in First Responders: Strategies for Wellness and Resilience

First responders—firefighters, police officers, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians—face intense stressors that are inherent to their jobs. The high-stakes nature of their work, exposure to traumatic experiences, and the physical demands of their roles can lead to burnout, a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. Addressing burnout is crucial not only for the well-being of first responders but also for maintaining the quality of public safety services. In this guide, we explore the signs of burnout in first responders and offer strategies for prevention and management.

Addressing Burnout in First Responders: Strategies for Wellness and Resilience

Understanding Burnout in First Responders

Burnout among first responders is characterized by three main components: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment.

Emotional exhaustion manifests as overwhelming fatigue and a sense of feeling emotionally drained. Depersonalization can lead to a cynical attitude towards the job and the people served, while reduced personal accomplishment refers to feelings of inefficacy and a lack of achievement at work.

The demanding nature of emergency response work, coupled with irregular hours and the need to make split-second decisions under pressure, contributes significantly to these feelings. Recognizing the signs of burnout is the first step in addressing it.

Strategies for Managing Burnout

1. Promote Mental Health Awareness and Support

Creating an environment that promotes mental health awareness is vital. First responders should have access to mental health resources, including counseling and support groups specifically designed for their unique challenges. Departments can organize regular workshops and training sessions on stress management and resilience-building techniques. Encouraging open discussions about mental health can reduce the stigma and make it easier for those struggling to seek help.

2. Foster a Supportive Work Culture

A supportive work environment can mitigate the effects of stress and burnout. Leadership should prioritize creating a culture of support and camaraderie, where first responders feel valued and understood. Implementing peer support programs, where first responders can share experiences and coping strategies in a confidential setting, can provide crucial emotional support.

3. Encourage Work-Life Balance

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is challenging but essential for preventing burnout. Departments should strive to offer flexible scheduling, where possible, to allow for sufficient rest and personal time. Encouraging first responders to take their allotted vacation time and engage in activities outside of work that they enjoy can help maintain their mental and emotional well-being.

4. Provide Access to Physical Wellness Programs

Physical health is deeply intertwined with mental health. Access to physical wellness programs, including fitness classes, nutritional advice, and regular health screenings, can help first responders maintain their physical condition, manage stress, and reduce the risk of burnout. Some departments have successfully integrated yoga and mindfulness meditation into their wellness programs, offering effective tools for stress relief and mental clarity.

5. Continuous Training and Education

Ongoing training and education can help first responders feel more competent and confident in their roles, combating feelings of ineffectiveness that contribute to burnout. Advanced training sessions that focus on improving technical skills, decision-making under pressure, and emotional intelligence can empower first responders. Additionally, leadership development programs for senior staff can ensure that they have the skills needed to support their teams effectively.

Promoting First Responder Well-Being

Addressing burnout in first responders is essential for the health and effectiveness of those at the forefront of emergency response. By recognizing the signs of burnout and implementing comprehensive strategies to manage stress and promote well-being, first responder agencies can safeguard their most valuable assets—their personnel.

Ultimately, the steps taken to combat burnout will not only improve the quality of life for first responders but also enhance the overall safety and well-being of the communities they serve. It’s a collective responsibility to support those who dedicate their lives to helping others in their darkest hours.

First Responders Foundation

The mission of the First Responders Foundation is to serve and honor all our First Responders, Veterans and their families; build appreciation and respect for their work; and enhance public safety. For more information, visit First Responders Foundation, or contact us.

Emergency Preparedness in Omaha, NE: A Local Approach to Community Safety and Resilience

In Omaha, Nebraska, where the weather can swiftly shift from peaceful to perilous, the importance of emergency preparedness cannot be overstated. From the tornadoes that sweep through the plains to the icy storms of winter, Omaha’s diverse climate presents unique challenges that necessitate a tailored approach to emergency planning and response. In this guide, we provide tips on how Omaha and its surrounding communities can enhance their readiness for emergencies, ensuring the safety and resilience of all residents in the face of unexpected disasters.

Emergency Preparedness in Omaha, NE: A Local Approach to Community Safety and Resilience

Identifying Omaha-Specific Risks

The first crucial step toward effective emergency preparedness in Omaha is recognizing the specific risks inherent to our area. Unlike coastal cities where hurricanes are the primary concern, Omaha must be prepared for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, blizzards, and floods.

Collaborative efforts between local emergency management officials, community leaders, and residents are essential in conducting thorough risk assessments. Understanding these risks allows for the development of targeted emergency plans that address the unique needs of the Omaha community.

Crafting a Tailored Emergency Plan for Omaha

A well-structured emergency plan is the foundation of Omaha’s preparedness strategy. This plan must cater to the specific scenarios Omaha is likely to face, outlining detailed response protocols, evacuation routes, and shelter information specific to our area.

Incorporation of local emergency services, hospitals, schools, and businesses into the planning process is vital. Through community workshops and meetings, Omaha residents can be educated about the plan, understand their roles, and how they can contribute to a cohesive emergency response.

Strengthening Omaha’s Infrastructure for Resilience

Investing in infrastructure that can withstand Omaha’s weather extremes is a critical component of minimizing the impact of emergencies. This includes enhancing the durability of buildings, maintaining robust communication networks, and ensuring the reliability of essential services during disasters.

Omaha can also benefit from establishing stockpiles of emergency supplies, such as food, water, and medical necessities. Utilizing grants and government funding can support these infrastructural upgrades, making our community more resilient.

Emergency Drills and Training in the Omaha Community

Frequent drills and training sessions are indispensable for preparing Omaha residents for emergencies. By simulating various disaster scenarios, from tornadoes to winter storms, the community can practice emergency procedures, reducing chaos and confusion when real emergencies occur.

Collaboration with local emergency services during these drills offers expert guidance and reinforces the effectiveness of Omaha’s emergency response strategies.

Promoting Volunteerism and Community Engagement in Omaha

The spirit of volunteerism is a powerful tool in emergency preparedness. Encouraging Omaha residents to form and join community response teams can significantly bolster our city’s capacity to manage emergencies. These teams can offer critical support, from administering first aid to managing supplies. Initiatives like neighborhood watch programs and emergency information networks can further enhance Omaha’s readiness and ensure a coordinated response when disasters strike.

Utilizing Technology for Enhanced Emergency Preparedness

Technology plays a pivotal role in modern emergency management strategies. Omaha can leverage social media, emergency alert apps, and online platforms to improve real-time communication and resource coordination during emergencies. These tools can facilitate the rapid dissemination of critical information and assist in managing community resources effectively.

Ensuring Effective Communication and Mental Health Support

Clear and reliable communication channels are essential for disseminating emergency information swiftly and accurately. Additionally, recognizing the psychological impact of emergencies, Omaha’s preparedness plans must include access to mental health resources. Providing psychological first aid training and establishing support networks can help address the emotional and mental well-being of residents affected by disasters.

In Omaha, Nebraska, where the threat of emergencies looms with the changing seasons, a community-centric approach to preparedness is key. By acknowledging our specific risks, developing targeted emergency plans, investing in resilient infrastructure, and fostering a culture of preparedness and community support, we can ensure that Omaha is ready to face whatever challenges come our way.

Together, let’s build a safer, more resilient Omaha.

First Responders Foundation

The mission of the First Responders Foundation is to serve and honor all our First Responders, Veterans and their families; build appreciation and respect for their work; and enhance public safety. For more information, visit First Responders Foundation, or contact us.

How to Support First Responders in Your Community through Engaged Giving

First responders are our everyday heroes, facing challenging situations to keep our communities safe. Beyond the essential emergency services they provide, many first responders are deeply involved in community-building activities like Jiu-Jitsu, anti-bullying, and women’s self-defense classes. Supporting these initiatives not only benefits first responders but also strengthens community bonds. One effective way to contribute is through donations to the First Responders Foundation, which plays a pivotal role in these programs. This blog explores how targeted donations can make a meaningful difference and help support first responders in your community.

How to Support First Responders in Your Community through Engaged Giving

Understanding the Role of First Responders

First responders, including firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical personnel, are often the first line of defense in crises. Their job, however, extends beyond emergencies. Many first responders are actively involved in community programs, teaching life skills and providing support in various forms.

Programs like Jiu-Jitsu, anti-bullying classes, and women’s self-defense workshops are not just about physical training; they are about empowering individuals, building confidence, and fostering a sense of security in the community. These programs also offer first responders a way to connect with the community in a non-emergency setting, promoting mutual understanding and respect.

The Impact of Your Donations

Donating to the First Responders Foundation can have a profound impact. Your contributions can specifically support programs like Jiu-Jitsu, anti-bullying, and women’s self-defense classes. These programs require resources such as training equipment, facilities, and expert instructors. Your donations ensure these initiatives are well-equipped and accessible to all community members. Moreover, these programs often provide mental and emotional support to first responders, serving as a constructive outlet for stress relief, physical fitness, and personal development.

Why Jiu-Jitsu, Anti-Bullying, and Women’s Self-Defense?

Jiu-Jitsu and anti-bullying programs teach more than self-defense techniques; they instill confidence, discipline, and respect for others. They empower children and adolescents to stand up against bullying in a controlled and respectful manner. Women’s self-defense classes, on the other hand, provide essential skills for personal safety and boost participants’ confidence in their ability to protect themselves.

By supporting these specific programs through the First Responders Foundation, you’re not only contributing to the physical and mental well-being of the participants but also helping create a safer, more resilient community.

The Significance of Jiu-Jitsu Training for Police Officers

Jiu-Jitsu, a martial art known for its emphasis on ground fighting and grappling techniques, holds significant value for police officers. This training is not just about physical preparedness; it is a comprehensive approach that enhances an officer’s ability to manage confrontations calmly and effectively. For law enforcement personnel, Jiu-Jitsu offers a set of non-lethal tools to control situations with minimal harm to both the officer and the involved parties.

The core philosophy of Jiu-Jitsu revolves around using technique and leverage over brute strength, making it an ideal practice for officers who often face unpredictable and challenging scenarios. This martial art teaches control over aggression, allowing officers to de-escalate situations more effectively. By training in Jiu-Jitsu, officers develop a heightened sense of situational awareness, better decision-making under stress, and improved physical fitness, all of which are critical in their line of duty.

Moreover, Jiu-Jitsu training fosters a mindset of continuous learning and adaptability, traits that are invaluable in law enforcement. As officers encounter various types of individuals and situations, the ability to adapt and respond appropriately is crucial. Regular practice in Jiu-Jitsu enhances these skills, contributing to more effective and safer law enforcement methods.

Supporting Jiu-Jitsu programs through donations to organizations like the First Responders Foundation not only benefits the officers but also the community they serve. Well-trained officers are equipped to handle situations with greater confidence and competence, leading to safer interactions and outcomes. By investing in Jiu-Jitsu training for police officers, we are contributing to a more skilled and responsible law enforcement community.

How to Make a Difference

Supporting first responders in your community can take many forms. Monetary donations to the First Responders Foundation, earmarked for these specific programs, are the most direct way to contribute. Additionally, volunteering your time, promoting these programs through social media, and participating in community events also make a significant difference. Encourage friends, family, and colleagues to join in these efforts. Collective community action can create a powerful impact.

Supporting First Responders in Your Community

Supporting First Responders goes beyond appreciating their emergency services. It’s about actively contributing to the programs they champion, like Jiu-Jitsu, anti-bullying, and women’s self-defense classes. Donations to the First Responders Foundation, specifically allocated to these initiatives, not only aid in equipping and running these programs but also demonstrate our collective commitment to building stronger, safer communities. Let’s come together to support these initiatives, showing our gratitude and respect for our first responders in a tangible, impactful way.

First Responders Foundation

The mission of the First Responders Foundation is to serve and honor all our First Responders, Veterans and their families; build appreciation and respect for their work; and enhance public safety. For more information, visit First Responders Foundation, or contact us.

Understanding and Supporting the Mental Health of First Responders

Did you know that first responders face significantly higher risks for mental health issues compared to the general population? The brave individuals who serve as firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and paramedics are often the first to encounter challenging and traumatic situations. While they play a crucial role in safeguarding our communities, their mental well-being is an area that urgently needs attention. In this article, we explore the mental health challenges faced by first responders and how we can help in supporting them.

Understanding and Supporting the Mental Health of First Responders

First responders are regularly exposed to life-threatening situations, traumatic events, and high-stress environments. Studies reveal that they are at a heightened risk for conditions like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety.

The very nature of their jobs, which often involves witnessing human suffering and life-and-death decisions, places a significant emotional burden on them. For instance, firefighters not only battle blazes but also witness casualties, which can lead to lasting psychological trauma. Similarly, law enforcement officers and EMTs are routinely exposed to scenes of violence, accidents, and critical health emergencies, all of which can take a toll on their mental health.

Factors Contributing to Mental Health Challenges in First Responders

Several factors exacerbate mental health challenges for first responders. The unpredictability and intensity of their work can lead to chronic stress. Additionally, the shift work often associated with these professions can disrupt sleep patterns, further impacting first responders and their mental health.

There’s also a cultural aspect: the expectation to maintain a ‘tough’ exterior can deter first responders from seeking help, fostering an environment where mental health issues are underreported. This stigma, combined with a lack of adequate mental health resources, makes it even more challenging for those in need to seek and receive support.

Raising Awareness and Providing Support

Raising awareness about the mental health of first responders is crucial. Acknowledging and addressing these issues not only supports their well-being but also ensures they can perform their duties effectively.

Mental health support can take various forms, such as counseling services, peer support programs, and stress management training. Departments and agencies should provide these resources as a part of their standard protocol. Furthermore, normalizing conversations around mental health and creating a supportive community culture where first responders can openly discuss their experiences and challenges without fear of judgment or repercussions is essential.

Contributions from the Community

As community members, we can contribute by advocating for better mental health resources for first responders. Donations to mental health charities, participating in community events focused on first responder support and simply acknowledging the sacrifices these individuals make can have a profound impact. Additionally, policies and regulations that prioritize the mental health of first responders should be advocated for at the local and national levels.

Commitment to Supporting First Responders

The mental health of first responders is a critical issue that deserves our attention and action. By understanding their challenges, contributing to a supportive environment, and advocating for better resources and policies, we can make a significant difference in the lives of those who dedicate themselves to protecting us. Let’s commit to being a part of the solution in supporting the mental health of our first responders.

First Responders Foundation

The mission of the First Responders Foundation is to serve and honor all our First Responders, Veterans and their families; build appreciation and respect for their work; and enhance public safety. For more information, visit First Responders Foundation, or contact us.

Paul Davis Restoration Of Omaha Gives Back to First Responders

The First Responders Foundation is honored to be inducting Paul Davis Restoration of Omaha into the Ancient Order of the National Society of St. Florian and St. Michael at the 7th Annual 9/11 Luncheon of Honor on September 11, 2023. 

Paul Davis Restoration of Omaha is a full-service residential and commercial emergency cleanup and restoration for disasters of all sizes. If your property is damaged, Paul Davis of Omaha will respond to the call and provide instant cleanup services 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Their goal is to answer calls within 30 minutes and arrive at the scene prepared to take care of damage in less than four hours.

They know that fast action is the key in emergency situations. They are household and commercial business disaster “first responders” who work closely with local law enforcement and fire departments to provide cleanup and restoration services. Paul Davis Restoration also provides property damage cleanup and emergency relief services no matter what the disaster or the size including storm, water, and fire damage restoration, mold removal, and constant cleaning. 

Paul Davis Restoration Of Omaha Gives Back to First Responders

For over 37 years, Paul Davis of Omaha has earned the reputation as the best in the business. As part of a national franchise network since 1966, there are more than 350 locations across North America and they are the leading insurance restoration franchise in North America.

Since its inception, Paul Davis of Omaha has restored over 30,000 lives through knowledge, ongoing training, and dedication to their Core Mission Statement; ‘To provide extraordinary care while serving people in their time of need.’ The aftermath of a disaster that has affected your home, business, or property is most often stressful and traumatic. Paul Davis of Omaha returns people back to their property as soon as possible.

The team leader and General Manager, Mike Buckley has been with the company for 15 years and GM since 2020. His many roles and involvement in large jobs have resulted in the creation of valuable company-wide processes, safety, and many divisional changes allowing for continued growth. Mike’s goal is to have a team of individuals who enjoy working together and are focused on the company’s mission, vision, and core values. From what we at the Foundation see and experience he is doing just that. An outstanding group of professionals who get the job done and have a lot of fun at the same time.

Accepting the award along with Mike is Business Development Manager, Cindy Gessert. Cindy has been in the emergency services and restoration industry for 20 years. She is a Certified Continuing Education instructor and has completed IICRC Fire and Water Damage courses and holds Emergency Recovery Service and Lead Certifications.


Paul Davis Restoration of Omaha shared

“We believe in giving back to our community and especially those that we work with, our First Responders. We have a deep appreciation for the service they provide to our community on a daily basis. Because of that, we have partnered with the First Responders Foundation.”

The Paul Davis Team has shown tremendous support for first responders and the Foundation.The Paul Davis Team has shown tremendous support for first responders and the Foundation.

For many years as a corporate sponsor of our Guns & Hoses events and the 9/11 Luncheon, they have donated thousands of dollars to the Foundation. They have also held golf tournaments that raised awareness of the Foundation and funded over 70 individual students with a $500 Awards of Excellence scholarship for high school seniors who are children of first responders totaling $33,000. Paul Davis Team members often attend events when other organizations support us as well. Their dedication and commitment to the Foundation in so many ways is exceedingly appreciated. 

Over the years Paul Davis of Omaha has supported many other organizations including:

Nebraska Humane Society, Town & Country Humane Society, USMC Toys for Tots, American Red Cross Blood Mobile, Salvation Army Adopt-a-Family, Diaper Drive, School Supply Drive for Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Foodbank for the Heartland, and The Furniture Project.

For more information on Paul Davis Restoration of Omaha click here.

For tips on what to do in the event of a disaster and disaster preparation click here.

More about the Ancient Order of the National Society of St. Florian and St. Michael click here.

For more about the Annual 9/11 Luncheon of Honor click here.


Joe Ricketts Supports First Responders, Education, Conservation, Art & More

The First Responders Foundation is honored to be inducting Mr. Joe Ricketts into the Ancient Order of the National Society of St. Florian and St. Michael at the 7th Annual 9/11 Luncheon of Honor on September 11, 2023. 

J. Joe Ricketts founded the brokerage Ameritrade

A pioneer in the use of technology to revolutionize the financial services sector, J. Joe Ricketts founded the brokerage Ameritrade, a securities industry leader that empowered self-directed investors with innovative investment tools and training.

After graduating from Creighton University in 1968 with an economics degree, Mr. Ricketts began his professional career first as a branch manager at Dun & Bradstreet, then as a registered representative with Dean Witter. In 1975, he co-founded First Omaha Securities, a retail securities brokerage firm in Omaha, Nebraska.

The Charles Schwab Corporation acquired TD Ameritrade for approximately $26 billion

Mr. Ricketts recognized that featuring negotiated commissions would allow the firm to take advantage of the newly deregulated discount securities market. Under Mr. Ricketts’ leadership, First Omaha Securities grew quickly and, through the use of innovative technology and marketing, evolved into Ameritrade, which managed hundreds of billions of dollars in client assets. In 2020, The Charles Schwab Corporation acquired TD Ameritrade for approximately $26 billion, combining the firms into one of the largest global financial powerhouses with approximately $6 trillion in client assets.

Omaha Opportunity Education Joe Ricketts Supports First Responders, Education, Conservation, Art & More

The Foundation thanks Mr. Ricketts for supporting first responders and their families and the Foundation. On September 25, 2021, Mr. Joe Ricketts/Straight Arrow News hosted Omaha’s Rally for the Responders. This day was dedicated to those who put our city first during a time like no other. It was a day to celebrate first responders, firefighters, police officers, EMTs, nurses, and doctors who showed us what courage and duty are all about during the COVID pandemic.

The Rally was the ultimate thank-you party for First Responders

They cared for the citizens of our community, protected us, and kept our city going. The Rally was filled with live music, food, exotic horses, first responder vehicles, carnival games, and fireworks. The Foundation had a booth where people wrote notes of thanks to first responders and children drew pictures of appreciation. It was held at TD Ameritrade Park and it was 100% free. It was an extraordinary and extravagant, one-of-a-kind day and event. To say the least first responders and their families felt the appreciation.

Mr. Ricketts/Straight Arrow News made a difference in the lives of first responders and their families. Making a difference is not something unusual when it comes to Joe Ricketts. Since 2008, Mr. Ricketts has devoted himself to a variety of entrepreneurial and philanthropic ventures, including: 

Opportunity Education Foundation

Opportunity Education Foundation is a charitable foundation with the mission of developing and supporting life-changing learning programs for young adults worldwide.

This provides young people worldwide with educational resources to succeed in life, today and tomorrow. Today’s world is dynamic, connected, and changing, raising new questions all the time. For students to succeed, they need more than fixed answers — they need the ability to keep growing and adapting to the world they find. Quest Forward Learning, the curriculum of Opportunity Education, activates lifelong curiosity in each student, cultivating the mindset, essential habits, and skills to succeed in life and work. Success isn’t about answering old questions. It’s about seeing opportunities to create value and having the skills to do so — for yourself, for your community, and for the world.

Quest Forward Academies

Quest Forward Academies are high schools designed around active, student-centered learning using projects, reflection, and rich feedback to help students learn and grow. There is a Quest Forward Academy in Omaha.

The Cloisters on the Platte Foundation

The Cloisters on the Platte Foundation established in 2017 offers 3-day silent retreats to men and women of all faiths. 

More than twenty years ago, Joe Ricketts attended a Jesuit retreat in Minnesota that changed his life. In the midst of a demanding career, his first silent weekend of reflection and study revealed what mattered most to him: family, morality, and honesty. Attending a yearly Jesuit retreat has been a staple of his spiritual life ever since.

The Cloisters Platte FoundationMr. Ricketts had long dreamed of making the Jesuit retreat experience available to more people. The Cloisters on the Platte is the realization of that dream. Mr. Ricketts personally funded the Foundation’s construction of the retreat property. Ongoing operations are funded through a combination of donations by retreatants (free will offerings), donations by people visiting the Stations of the Cross, and product sales. The Cloisters on the Platte Foundation is managed by a Board of Directors.

The Cloisters on the Platte Retreat Center retreats are based on the teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who lived from 1491 to 1556. During his lifetime, St. Ignatius composed a brief set of meditations, prayers, and mental exercises to be used by men and women seeking to discern God’s will in their lives. Every year, The Cloisters brings the power of quiet reflection to people seeking spiritual renewal. 

Stations of the Cross

Stations of the CrossThe Stations of the Cross located at the Retreat Center are accessible without attending a retreat. Walk the length of the Stations of the Cross and you will have covered the 2,500 steps Jesus Christ took from Jerusalem to his crucifixion. Life-size bronze statues tell the story of Jesus’ path to his death. Each stop along the path includes an audio description of the events leading from his sentence of death by Pontius Pilate to his entombment.

The bronze statues stand about seven feet tall and were created by 10 artists from around the United States. The Stations of the Cross are the only area of the retreat open to the public. As you walk along the route, you’ll notice the beauty of the area, with treelined rolling hills. 

Ricketts Conservation Foundation

The Ricketts Conservation Foundation was founded by Joe Ricketts to support the conservation of wildlife and wilderness areas, promoting the importance of environmental stewardship as an enduring value. Central to Mr. Ricketts’ belief is the idea that conservation is everyone’s responsibility. In a world facing increasingly complex environmental challenges, private sector resources play an ever-greater role in the conservation of wildlife and wilderness areas. By answering this need, and encouraging others to do the same, the Ricketts Conservation Foundation aims to make a difference in the quality of life enjoyed by future generations.

Ricketts Art Foundation

The Ricketts Art Foundation was founded to enrich people’s lives by providing innovative access to the works of important visual, performing, and literary artists, both current and past. As its first project, The Foundation partnered with The Buffalo Bill Center of the West and the Museum of Mountain to create The Alfred Jacob Miller Online Catalogue.

Straight Arrow News

In June of 2021, Mr. Ricketts launched Straight Arrow News. Straight Arrow News is committed to fair, factual, unbiased journalism and political commentary that encourages viewers to make up their own minds. By approaching every issue from an objective, middle ground and highlighting underreported stories, the aim is to empower people with context and facts. 

Mr. Ricketts owns:

Village Pie Maker

The Village Pie Maker pies are handcrafted in small batches with care and attention to every detail using premium quality fruit with fillings made from scratch—never from a can. The buttery, flaky crust is gently rolled and then crimped by hand. The delicious “take and bake” frozen fruit pies can be found nationwide in many local grocery stores and markets.

High Plains Bison

From mouth-watering bison burgers and sausages to tender, hand-cut bison steaks, High Plains Bison offers a wide variety of premium bison products that are easy to prepare and great for grilling. 

Mr. Ricketts is also the author of the book

The Harder You Work, the Luckier You Get An Entrepreneur’s Memoir (2019).

Simon and Shuster shares,

“Joe Ricketts always had the gift of seeing what others missed. The son of a house builder, he started life as a part-time janitor, but by the age of thirty-three, he saw the chance to challenge the big brokerage firms by offering Americans an inexpensive way to take control of their own stock trading. Nowadays, we take for granted that Main Street is playing right there on Wall Street, but Ricketts made that happen. His company, begun with $12,500 borrowed from friends and family, took off like a rocket thanks to an early embrace of digital technology and irreverent marketing. But Ameritrade also faced a series of near-disasters: the SEC almost shut him down; his partners tried to force him out because of his relentless risk-taking; penny brokers swindled the company; the crash of 1989 nearly cost him everything; and he was almost shut down again when a customer committed massive fraud. By the time of the dot-com bust, he had proven that his strategy based on frontier values could survive just about anything.”

A native of Omaha, Nebraska, Mr. Ricketts and his wife of more than 60 years have four children and fourteen grandchildren.

Omaha’s Rally for the Responders

The Foundation again thanks Mr. Ricketts for his support of the Foundation and first responders and for hosting Omaha’s Rally for the Responders. It was the ultimate thank-you party for First Responders.

We sincerely thank him for all he has done and continues to do to make a difference for people in our local community and throughout the world.

For more information on the Ancient Order of the National Society of St. Florian and St. Michael click here.

More information on the Annual 9/11 Luncheon of Honor click here.

For more pictures from Omaha’s Rally for the Responders visit our Facebook page here.


Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits/Makers Mark Support First Responders

The First Responders Foundation is honored to be inducting Maker’s Mark & Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits into the Ancient Order of the National Society of St. Florian and St. Michael at the 7th Annual 9/11 Luncheon of Honor on September 11, 2023. Accepting the award from Maker’s Mark will be Katie Ruhga and from Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits will be Jeremy Kirby. 

Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits/Makers

Maker’s Mark began with one family’s quest to create a bourbon they enjoyed drinking and sharing with friends. Bill Samuels Sr. developed the world’s first premium bourbon and changed the industry.

Bill Samuels Sr.

In 1953 Bill Samuels Sr., the visionary, developed Maker’s Mark. This engineer-turned-craftsman elevated bourbon with his flavor vision. 

Margie Samuels, the creative soul, created packaging that would honor her husband’s handmade bourbon. The look that is now known worldwide, the shape of the bottle, the label, the signature red wax, and even the Maker’s Mark name are all thanks to Margie. Margie is also credited for inventing bourbon tourism. 

Bill Samuels Jr., the innovator, brought the brand from a Kentucky favorite to an American icon. His pioneering wood stave finishing process, used to create Maker’s 46, set the course for Maker’s Mark innovation. This innovative process starts with a fully matured Maker’s Mark at cask strength.  A selection of ten custom-cooked wood staves are inserted into the barrel for an additional aging period in the climate-controlled limestone cellar.  

Maker’s Mark

Maker’s Mark is still located on the beautiful Star Hill Farm in Loretto, Kentucky where Bill and Margie started the distillery in 1953. Everyone at Maker’s Mark strives to make Star Hill Farm a sustainable, culturally rich, and endearing homeplace.

The limestone shelf where the distillery is located is key to crafting the unique taste of Maker’s Mark – the only distillery with its own water source and watershed. Kentucky limestone filters out iron from water, which is unpleasant in bourbon.

The pure calcium and magnesium-rich water surrounding the distillery makes better drinking water and a better sour mash in which yeast can flourish. Star Hill and the land surrounding the farm are full of diverse plants and wildlife. The natural resources all around help nourish and protect the water source.

Rob Samuels

Today 8th generation Rob Samuels is the Managing Director of the Maker’s Mark Distillery. Rob’s mission is to ensure every drop of Maker’s Mark is made the same way as the first drop while meeting the world’s ever-increasing demand.

Rob is very supportive of first responders and in particular the First Responders Foundation. Maker’s Mark has created signature bourbon to support the Foundation and our mission to serve first responders, veterans, and their families. The bourbon has been extremely popular and has sold out immediately. To show his support and appreciation for the Foundation and first responders Rob created this video:

First Responder’s Foundation

Maker’s Mark got involved with the First Responders Foundation through Katie Ruhga and Jeremy Kirby. Katie works for Maker’s Mark/Beam Suntory and has been in the alcohol beverage industry for over 18 years both as a distributor and supplier. Jeremy works for Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits and has been in the industry for over 28 years. 

Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits was created when two companies merged in 2016 to become the world’s largest alcohol distributor. 1909 was the beginning of Glazer with Jumbo Bottling Co. distributing flavored soda from a horse-drawn wagon. That continued until 1933 with the repeal of Prohibition when Louis Glazer and his three sons started Glazer’s Wholesale Distributors and began distributing Schlitz Beer. 

Harvey ChaplinHarvey Chaplin

Harvey Chaplin, the founder of Southern Wine & Spirits, began his career in 1946 working for Schenley Industries in Manhattan, a leading distilled spirits marketer, and American importer.

Harvey’s son Wayne joined Southern Wine & Spirits in 1984 and the company became the first distributor to gain a statewide network in California. In 1992 Southern Wine & Spirits became the largest U.S. beverage alcohol wholesaler.

Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits builds on its multigenerational heritage. Team members think and act like owners while treating each other with respect, camaraderie, and transparency. Integrity, intellect, and ingenuity guide their decisions and relationships with suppliers, customers, and each other.

In 2017, Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits established the Youth Alcohol Awareness & Education Foundation, Inc., devoted to the prevention of underage drinking. In 2022 they were included in “Forbes” list of Best Employees for Diversity 2022.

Making an Impact

Katie and Jeremy wanted to do something to give back to their local community. Both of their organizations do great things nationally but they wanted to do something that would make an impact in the Omaha metro area. They are both very passionate about those who serve and protect, those who put others’ needs first, veterans, and first responders.

When they started the program in 2021 to help the Foundation our nation was filled with riots, political wars, and protesting, including protesting in Omaha. To do something to make a difference, and to be part of the solution, Katie and Jeremy wanted to create and distribute a bourbon, especially for first responders and the Foundation.

Working together Katie and Jeremy started the process of creating First Responders Foundation bourbon. Al Batschelet, CEO, and Todd Sears, President had the honor and privilege of customizing the flavor profile that would be used in the bourbon.

They toured the farm while making the selections. Then the wait began for the additional two to three months before the bourbon would be ready for bottling. Maker’s Mark created the bourbon and Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirit distributed it. Maker’s Mark has released two Private Select Barrels of First Responders Foundation Bourbon and we are anxiously awaiting the third release this fall.

Our sincere thanks to everyone at Maker’s Mark and Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits for supporting the First Responders Foundation. Special thanks to Jeremy and Katie for making it happen through their appreciation of first responders and wanting to give back to their local communities. 


JeremyJeremy was in the  Army Reserves from 1991-1997. He has many friends and fraternity brothers who are in law enforcement in Omaha, Kansas City, and Las Vegas. He and his wife Holly live in Omaha. They have two daughters Regan and Rian. Rian’s husband Andrew works at Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits. He and Rian are the parents of Romyn, Jeremy’s first grandchild. Jeremy and his family are always looking for ways to give back to the community.



Katie, who grew up on a farm and loves to visit Loretto, Kentucky, the homeplace, lives in Gretna. She and her husband Mark have three children, Preston in elementary school, and Madison and Makenna who are pursuing careers in medical service fields. Katie is proud that other states are now working with Maker’s Mark to replicate the program started by her and Jeremy. 

Certified B Corporations

We congratulate Maker’s Mark for achieving B Corp Certification last December. They are the largest distillery in the world to achieve B Corp Certification and the first distillery in Kentucky’s Bourbon County.

Certified B Corporations are for-profit companies that use the power of business to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. They meet the highest verified standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.

This makes a significant and globally relevant milestone on the brand’s broader vision to “Make Your Mark, Leave No Trace”. Maker’s Mark leads the spirits industry in innovative environmental efforts that include the largest repository of American White Oak trees in the world.

A first-of-its-kind genome mapping project of the American White Oak and the establishment of a regenerative farming practice.

Maker’s Mark hosts a variety of tours that are open to the public. Learn more about Maker’s Mark by clicking here.  You can become an ambassador of Maker’s Mark, or enroll in their direct-to-consumer program as well.

For more about Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits click here.

For more about the Ancient Order of the National Society of St. Florian and St. Michael click here.

For more about the 7th Annual 9/11 Luncheon of Honor click here.

Tim Burke shares “A story of a first responder family”

The First Responders Foundation is honored to be inducting Timothy J. Burke into the Ancient Society of St. Florian and St. Michael at the 7th Annual 9/11 Luncheon of Honor on September 11, 2023.

Tim has been a long-time supporter of first responders and of the Foundation. Tim is the keynote speaker for this years First Responders Foundations 9/11 Luncheon of Honor where his speech is titled  “A Story of a First Responder Family”

Tim recently retired as the President and CEO of OPPD.

Timothy J. Burke joined OPPD in April 1997 as vice president. He served as vice president of Customer Service & Public Affairs, overseeing Customer Service Operations, Customer Sales & Service, Customer Strategy, Economic Development, Safety & Technical Training, Corporate Marketing & Communications, Operations Analysis, Governmental Affairs, and Environmental & Regulatory Affairs. In May 2015, he became president and CEO. He retired last summer.

His local and industry board affiliations include:

  • American Public Power Association
  • Large Public Power Council
  • Nebraska Power Association
  • Business Ethics Alliance Trustee
  • Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce
  • United Way of the Midlands – past Chair of the Board and he and his wife Terri were the chairs of the 2022 United Way of the Midlands Campaign
  • Partnership for Our Kids
  • StratCom Consultation Committee
  • Offutt Air Force Base Advisory Council
  • Air Force Global Strike Command Civic Leader Program
  • Nebraska Blue Print Steering Committee
  • Papillion First Responders Foundation Chapter Board of Directors in 2021

Burke holds a Master’s degree from Drake University and a Bachelor’s degree from Buena Vista University. He is married to Terri Burke. They have three sons who are married, as well as seven grandchildren.  

We look forward to hearing Tim speak at the luncheon and to honoring him for all he has done for first responders.

For tickets to the luncheon click here.

For more information on the Ancient Order of the National Society of St. Florian and St. Michael click here.


Guns & Hoses Hockey Challenge – this Sunday!

 Sunday is the big day –
Guns & Hoses Hockey Challenge ON ICE!
Baxter Arena March 19, at 3 PM

Come watch local police and firefighters compete in the Guns & Hoses Hockey Challenge for a good cause, to support the First Responders Foundation!

Bring the family out to cheer on our First Responders and enjoy an epic event with lots of fun scheduled on AND off the ice! There will be a Kid Zone, cool first responder vehicles, K9s, vendors, a Chuck-A-Puck break activity, awesome raffles, and more! 

Need Tickets?
The box office opens at 12:00 on Sunday
or click here to purchase now!

  • Baxter Arena has a Clear Bag Policy & concessions are credit card ONLY.
  • Bring cash! Raffle tickets and chuck-a-pucks will be available for purchase in the main concourse.
  • Look for directional signage – fans are encouraged to sit behind the team they’re rooting for!
  • Make signs to cheer on your favorite team or player!


Meet the 2023 FIRE TEAM – TEAM RED

Team Red includes firefighters from Omaha, Council Bluffs, Offutt, Lincoln, Waterloo, and Grand Island, and has a combined 269 years of service.

  • # 27 – (Captain) Derek Panneton  – Omaha Fire Department
  • #6 – (Asst Captain) Chris Sorensen – Council Bluffs Fire Department
  • #1 – (Asst Captain) Allen Weberg – Omaha Fire Department
  • #71 – Zach Mass – Omaha Fire Department
  • #69 – TJ Wurth – Omaha Fire Department
  • #39 – Matt Hill – Omaha Fire Department
  • #18 – TJ Korpela – Omaha Fire Department
  • #12 – Kevin Meschede  – Omaha Fire Department
  • #21 – Pat Driscoll – Omaha Fire Department
  • #8 – Jon Kava – Omaha Fire Department
  • #7 – Scott Fitzpatrick – Omaha Fire Department
  • #14 – Ryan Hoffman – Offutt Air Force Base Fire Department
  • #15 – Josh Ballain– Council Bluffs Fire Department
  • #5 – Chad Wheeler – Council Bluffs Fire Department
  • #23 – Neal Hoevet  – Council Bluffs Fire Department
  • #9 – Nick Mckenzie – Omaha Fire Department
  • #10 – Ryan Cyboron  – Grand Island Fire Department
  • #29 – Alex Duling  Eppley Fire Department
  • #37 – Brady Krajeski  Ralston Fire Department
  • #47 – Mike Morton Jr Waterloo Fire Department
  • Jordan Wright Lincoln Fire Department


Team Blue includes law enforcement from 8 different metro-area agencies, and has a combined 188 of years of service.

  • #13 – Anthony DeSciscio (Captain) – Omaha Police Department
  • #92 – Jason Miller – Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office
  • #64 – Benjamin Nguyen – Nebraska State Patrol
  • #24 – Ryan Fitz – Omaha Police Department
  • #6 – Tom Shaffer  – Omaha Police Department
  • #18 – Brett WAGNER  – Omaha Police Department
  • #50 – Nick Palmer – Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office
  • #17 – Mike Borman – Nebraska State Probation
  • #34 – Brandon Shelton – MCC Police Department
  • #29 – Mark Kable – Morgantown Police Department  
  • #90 – Jacob Mikesell – Sarpy County Sheriff’s Probation 
  • #21 – James Grasmick – Omaha Police Department 
  • #43 – Brandom Ozuman – Omaha Police Department 
  • #44 – Jon Sears – Lincoln Police Department 
  • #11 – Bill Stenneche – Douglas County Corrections 
  • #2 – Pat Scheifla – Douglas County Corrections 
  • #16 – Matt Backora – Omaha Police Department

Thank you to our Guns & Hoses Premier Sponsors.