Serving first responders to impact communities
The Warriors Rest Foundation focuses on the physical, mental, relational, spiritual, financial, and emotional health of first responders. These wellness categories vitally impact their overall job performance, and keeping them healthy provides safety, quality care, and protection for our communities.
Founding the organization
The idea of Warrior’s Rest Foundation started amongst a group of peers from several different agencies that saw the need to help first responders and their families. The nonprofit planned to seek out, train, and continuously mentor peer support teams for agencies across the United States to encourage first responders to stay healthy. The mission is: “Working together to build resiliency with first responders, their partners, and their families to foster healthy professional and personal lives.”
Co-founder and executive director Brett R. Key served for 26 years in law enforcement and very personally understands the difficulties of the profession.
“The traumas that came along with the job were not something I was prepared for, and it took its toll early in my career after the line-of-duty death of a classmate. It was then that I learned that it was OK to show emotion, ask for help, and speak with a psychologist,” said Key. “This is what drives all involved with WRF to do what they do. We don’t want anyone to have to make the same mistakes that we have made, and we hope that it continues to save careers, marriages, and lives.”
The organization’s founders saw that the training and assistance offered to heroes and their families were minimal at best. They recognized the problem is due to the lack of attention placed on mental and emotional help, but also the lack of awareness by the heroes, who were taught a “suck it up, it’s part of the job” mentality.
“For all of us that put this foundation together, we had people that invested in us and our families in our darkest and hardest moments,” said Key. “We all knew the value and power of peer support and focusing on resiliency and wellness because we were all broken at some point and had people step in to help us.
Serving first responders
Warrior’s Rest Foundation trains departments and officers to take care of themselves. The sessions give them the tools to help each other walk through the dark traumas and times that they sometimes see on a daily basis. The organization also partners with other nonprofits to expand their reach and help more first responders.
One of these partners is Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS). Its mission is to rebuild the shattered lives of survivors and co-workers affected by line-of-duty death. WRF has a strong working relationship and serves this group by providing instructors, “peers,” and support services at several of their events, including National Police Week in Washington D.C. and Traumas of Law Enforcement.
WRF also partners with The Wounded Blue, which improves the lives of injured and disabled law enforcement officers through support, education, assistance, and legislation. WRF trains officers for their peer support advocate program. This training helps Wounded Blue’s staff better communicate with the first responders that reach out for help in a time of need.
“All those involved with our foundation have the same goal,” said Key. “We want to help change the lives of those we touch daily, but more importantly, we want to leave a legacy for those coming after us to do the same.”
Growing across borders
The organization recently expanded to include additional services for firefighters, EMS personnel, corrections, communication (dispatchers), and nurses (ERs).
“Originally, when we started, we were just focusing on law enforcement in Oklahoma,” said Key. “That was what our background was and a great starting point, but it became apparent that the need was there for assisting all first responders.”
Services, training, and partnerships continue to grow and now include connection groups, counseling, wellness programs, mental health education, and more.
“We quickly expanded into other states and assisted national programs. It speaks to the unique mission statement and focus we put together, but also to the need across the country,” said Key. “We are starting to see a major shift in our first responders and understanding that it’s OK not to be OK. They are taught how to do the job and be successful, but not how to deal with the traumas they face every day.”
Overall, the biggest challenge facing Warrior’s Rest Foundation is getting the information to communities and first responders that there is help available. Key believes there is a long-standing stigma in the first responder world of being afraid to ask for assistance, whether emotionally, physically, spiritually, or financially.
“When you help us out, whether physical or financial help, you are helping your community because we are turning your investment around and pouring it into the frontline workers,” said Key. “There isn’t a class we teach or an intervention we do where we don’t hear the words ‘this changed my life.’ It doesn’t get better than that—knowing what you are doing has meaning and purpose.”
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About Tim Priebe
Tim is a public speaker, author, publisher of Edmond Business, and the owner of T&S Online Marketing. He helps businesses that are worried they don’t have the expertise or time required to invest in doing their own digital marketing. He helps them plan where and how much to invest and often helps execute the plan.
Tim started the Edmond Business online magazine in May 2020 to fill a need in the community when The Edmond Sun shut down and stopped publishing their monthly magazine, The Business Times.