With National Police Week fully in our rearview mirror, we wanted to take a moment to reflect and highlight some of the more noteworthy experiences.
Most of the events surrounding Police Week, especially those for line of duty death families, are ‘C.O.P.S.’ driven. Inevitably, the families will hear the officers talking about ‘Tent City’, which is the name given to the three day event sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1, featuring countless law enforcement related vendors as well as food and beverages. ‘Tent City’ also provides a much needed breather for all the law enforcement officers who have traveled hundreds of miles in some cases to honor their fallen. It is a destination outside of the city and away from the weight of their loss where they can blow off some steam.
In most cases, the families will find themselves wandering over to ‘Tent City’ to see what all the buzz is about. Years ago, BBO Founder/President Michael Burke made the observation that there really wasn’t anything geared towards the family members of our fallen. Keeping in mind that not everyone in a police officer’s family is as about the life as much as their loved one is, endless rows of law enforcement related vendors don’t really offer the families anything. In that moment, the ‘Blue Room’ was born.
– The Blue Room –
Increasing our ‘Tent City’ footprint from 2 tents to 4, Michael joined forces with Blue Magazine Founder/BBO partner Daniel Del Valle to offer the families of our fallen something that had never been done before: a space just for them. Sectioned off with blue velvet ropes, the Blue Room was furnished with blue lighting, several forms of blue furniture, a wall listing all of the 2018 line of duty deaths (including photos), law enforcement related items and a section we appropriately called ‘Caprio’s Corner’.
Baltimore County Police Officer Amy Sorrells Caprio, who was killed in May of 2018, was the coworker and cousin of Baltimore County Corporal/Police Emerald Society of Baltimore President/BBO member Eric Brennan. Eric and his family have been extremely active in and supportive of BBO and our work. When he heard about what we were doing with our ‘Blue Room’, Eric had a special idea. At the Blue Line Bash that the Emerald Society had hosted back in March, Amy’s parents were presented with a shadow box that had been made using a Baltimore County Police uniform, Amy’s brass and Amy’s hat.
Given the timing and the nature of what we were doing, Eric felt that his cousin’s tribute would be a fitting addition to the Blue Room. He could not have been more right. Not only did Amy’s memorial serve as a humbling reminder of the loss our families endure, it gave her family, both kin and blue, a destination at ‘Tent City’ unlike any ever provided in the past.
The overall concept of the ‘Blue Room’ was simple: BBO wanted to offer the families of our fallen a place just for them; a place that they could simply get off their feet and take a breather, out of the elements and away from the crowd. If they needed a drink or something to eat, our members went and got it for them or we already had it at the tent. However, the space proved to be so much more.
– Jonny Castro Art –
Beginning last year, BBO has been sponsoring Philadelphia Police Officer/forensic sketch artist and BBO partner Jonny Castro’s attendance at ‘Tent City’. Last year, many families stumbled on Jonny, not really expecting him to be there. This year, families from as far as Puerto Rico and representing line of duty deaths from as far back as 21 years ago, made their way to Jonny’s tent. In most cases, the families were simply coming to meet Jonny, put a face to the name and to, face to face, thank him for painting a portrait of their loved one. In some cases, Jonny met with coworkers who had never seen the portrait first person. And in other cases, Jonny was met with requests for portraits yet to be done.
Of the hundreds of people Jonny interacted within the short three days, the raw emotion that came from those meetings was tangible. The work that Jonny is doing to honor our fallen heroes touches families in ways that I think even he underestimated. Whether it was was tear drops left on portraits or hearing young children say, “That’s daddy!!” when seeing the portrait of their father, few could witness the interactions between Jonny and those he met with without having tears well up in their eyes.
A full catalogue of Jonny’s work, as more complete detailing of his Police Week interactions can be found on his Instagram/Facebook pages (search ‘Jonny Castro Art).
– John ‘Tig’ Tiegen Visits Blue Room –
It’s not every day that you run into someone as American or downright badass as John Tiegen, but that’s just what happened for our members down at ‘Tent City’.
For those who live under a rock, on September 11, 2011 in Benghazi, ‘Tig’ and his team members defended the American Diplomatic Compound against radical Islamic terrorists for 13 hours while waiting for American military forces to respond. His actions and the actions of his team saved countless lives and serve as a testament to patriotism, bravery and courage in the face of evil.
Needless to say, any day ‘Tig’ visits is a day for the memory bank. That night in ‘Tent City’ was no different for our members.
– Wes And Virginia aka “The Spin Doctors” –
Retired Bergen County Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant/BBO Trustee Wes Young Jr and his daughter, Virginia, were at it again this year, spinning the ‘Wheel of Brotherhood’, giving out prizes, raising money for the BBO National Flower Fund and putting smiles on the faces of everyone they interacted with.
The wheel, set up outside the BBO tent, has prizes ranging from Blue Line American flags to pictures with a ‘sexy model’ which, often times, ended up being our own male staff dressed in women’s tank tops. Hey, the slot said sexy model, it didn’t say man or woman!
The routine between Wes and his daughter is something to behold. The comedy is second to none and, sometimes even direct. In one case, Virginia noticed a passerby that had obviously spent long hours in the gym, very few of those being spent on the lower half of his body. Virginia chided, “Hey muscles. Don’t skip leg day.” Much like a police locker room, you need thick skin before you walk by these two!
No matter how you slice it, police week at the BBO tent just wouldn’t be the same without the hard work and smiles provided by Wes and Virginia. Oh, and did I mention they raised $1500.00 for the flower fund just by themselves? Outstanding work, you two!!!
– Officer Ashley Smith Stops By Proud Pig –
Police Officer, bodybuilder and all around badass Ashley Smith stopped by to check on the crew and her exclusive Proud Pig sweatshirt. If you don’t know who Ashley is or what she means to the law enforcement community, do yourself a favor and head over to her website/social media pages and check out what she’s up to.
– Blue Line Bears –
Since roughly 2015, BBO partner Megan O’Grady and her Blue Line Bears have been comforting the children and families of fallen officers. As a non-profit, Blue Line Bears has been creating individualized hand-made teddy bears using the uniform shirts of fallen officers.
While attending ‘Tent City’, Megan visited the Blue Room and was able to meet families and even present some of her bears to the family of a fallen.
Please visit their page, read up about the work they are doing and consider donating if you can.
You will often hear our members saying that there is nothing else out there like BBO. There are absolutely a lot of charities doing amazing things for law enforcement, but no one does it quite like us. Michael has fostered an environment of face to face and hand to hand charity that has created a family. In an environment that is vendor/revenue driven, BBO dedicated half of its’ four tents to non-revenue ventures geared towards honoring and serving our families.
Every year, as a charity, we leave Police Week and ‘Tent City’ with a renewed purpose and refreshed drive as it applies to doing what we do. Seeing the families of our fallen, looking into their eyes and hearing their stories has, once again, humbled us.
In was honor to take part in this event and to have met you all. You are the very face of bravery and your loyalty towards your loved ones and the life they lived speaks volumes.
We want you to know that we “see” you all and love you for what you have done and continue to do for our profession.
Until next year…….
*Thank You to Our Brian Shea and Our Blue Room Sponsors*
*Thank You to Mirella Arroyo and the Members of FOP Lodge 1 for allowing us the space and for being so accommodating and understanding during the week!*
*Thank You to Our Charity Sponsors*