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Fund raiser to aid expanding ‘Badge of Honor’ program

By Staff | Sep 13, 2008

The Lee County Badge of Honor started out as a helping hand for the families of fallen Lee County Sheriff’s Office employees: mowing lawns, doing housework, sending cards and gift baskets just to say “we remember.”

The not-for-profit group continues to do all those things, but is expanding to offer services to police agencies throughout the county, as well as to raise funds to build a local public memorial for fallen officers.

Bahama Breeze, 14701 S. Tamiami Trail in Fort Myers, will donate a portion of its sales Tuesday to the Badge of Honor program to aid in funding the memorial and the continued charity work of the BOA; they will donate $2 per patron with a minimum donation of $1,000.

Lt. Matthew Monahan, co-founding member of the BOA, is one of many who reaches out each day to the families of fallen officers.

Having a fallen officer memorial is an important goal for the organization, Monahan said.

“It would allow people locally to have a place to go to remember their fallen loved one, or for grieving, or to celebrate their life,” he said.

Not only law enforcement families would find value in it, Monahan believes.

“It would offer (citizens) a place to go to show their respect,” he said.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office lost Sgt. Mark Neidermeyer, 44, to a heart attack during a March charity football game against county fire fighters, and the BOH has reached out to the Neidermeyer family as well as others.

But the tragic shooting death of Fort Myers police officer Andrew Widman compelled the BOH to expand more quickly, and to reach out the Widman’s family along with the various local law enforcement agencies.

Such efforts don’t surprise Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott, who continues to support the BOH and the “family” of law enforcement officers in Lee County.

“It’s just people getting together trying to do good,” Scott said. “I, and we as an agency, support them… It’s a group of people with great intentions. It’s blossomed into something that is more of a countywide effort.”

Scott said law enforcement and public safety workers historically are supportive of their brothers and sisters in the field, and the wide-spread support for officer Widman’s family was not atypical of those dedicating their lives to service as Widman did.

The Cape Coral Police Department has never had an officer killed in the line of duty, but Widman’s death blurred the already gray line between the Cape Coral and Fort Myers police departments, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and other public safety agencies; the Cape Coral Police Department helped raise money for the Widman family as well as performing household tasks and offering support similar to what the BOH offers.

“Collectively we’ll be as one,” said Cape Coral Police Chief Rob Petrovich. “What department the officer came from is immaterial.”

The BOH mirrors that message.

“Of course the department supports it,” Petrovich said of the budding organization.

“It’s all still in the very early stages of development,” Monahan said.

About 200 people are currently offering their volunteer services with the BOH, and the group is growing “slowly but surely,” Monahan said.

Those who wish to make a donation to the BOH may do so by sending it to Lee County Badge of Honor, 4085 Hancock Bridge Parkway, Suite 111-308, Fort Myers, FL 33903.

For more information call 677-4343 or visit www.leecountybadgeofhonor.org.

The Badge of Honor has filed for 501c3 tax-exempt status, which is currently pending, and donations are not tax-exempt as of this time.