Fed Up With Violence Against First Responders, Community Raises Funds To Purchase Ballistic Vests, Helmets For Firefighters

When people discuss their final preparations with family members, they often decide that instead of flowers at their funerals, they would prefer people who want to honor them to donate to charity. For one woman, it was a donation to a charity that can help save her son's life.


Karen Bever had terminal cancer, and her son, Tom Bever, was a fire captain in St. Paul. They spent a lot of time together during her final months. Captain Bever shared with her about a very special charity.

Karen cared deeply for her son and his fellow firefighters. When it came time to plan her funeral, she told her son, " Tommy, I don't want flowers."

Instead, she said that if people wanted to do something for her, she wanted them to donate to the charity Shield616. They were a Christian nonprofit raising money for vests that offered ballistic protection to first responders.

When 76-year-old Karen passed away in July of 2020, people donated money to the organization in her memory. The St. Paul firefighters received five sets of protective gear.

Protection on a Larger Scale

According to Shield616 founder Jake Skifstad, donors and firefighters met in a way to demonstrate how the community rallies "around our first responders to help make sure that they're better protected." Currently, $73,000 has been donated.

That was enough to give 33 firefighters ballistic vests and helmets. Deputy Fire Chief Ken Adams is thrilled to receive the donations, but they still have quite a way to go. They want to outfit all 435 of their firefighters.

St. Paul firefighters are also EMTs or paramedics, so they often respond to dangerous situations like shootings, or unpredictable ones like medical emergencies.

Firefighters responding to calls have been shot just for responding to an emergency. According to Adams, the National Fire Protection Association wants firefighters to have a ballistic vest, especially when responding to an active shooter call.

Off-Duty Contact

During the riots last May, Captain Bever was off-duty due to injury, but very concerned for fellow firefighters who were going to calls where rocks, bottles, and bricks were thrown at them.

Captain Bever discovered Shield616 through a friend working for Mounds View Police Department. He suggested the nonprofit since they had used them for their officers as well.

The department met with Skifstad, and they rolled out the program to get these firefighters this much-needed safety gear.

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