All give some, and some give all. But in life, sometimes a few give everything — and that is what makes all the difference.
So it is with the founders of 10-7 Outdoors, a charitable initiative started by two fulltime police officers from Arlington, Texas, who believed they could make a difference helping children of men and women who have fallen in the line of duty by mentoring the officer’s child or children through hunting and fishing trips.
Their names are Kris Caldwell and Justin Leathers. In 2014, they came up with a plan to provide great outdoor experiences for the children of officers who were killed in the line of duty. Their intention was to honor the fallen officer while also teaching the kids fish and game management, hunting ethics and techniques, firearm safety, and many more valuable topics. Their goal is to maintain the memory of the parent for that child, while devoting time to them, continuing to support, and help guide them through a rough time in their lives via mentorship.
They were in Gonzales County over the weekend hosting their third annual hunt at the Poco Seco Ranch between Bebe and Leesville. Three families of fallen officers were chosen to spend the weekend hunting and fishing at the ranch.
“We were sitting around one night and we said we needed to do something more for the children of fallen officers,” Leathers said. “Police often get a bad rep in these times, and we wanted to do something different and honor those who have given everything.”
“We were raised to hunt and fish by our parents, and there are so many valuable lessons to be learned by experiencing the outdoors,” Caldwell said. “We thought we could help children who have lost a parent at a young age to learn the lessons of the outdoors and to love the outdoors and nature for all that it has to offer. Without a father to show them the way, we didn’t want them to miss out on the opportunity to experience this, so we came up with 10-7 Outdoors.
“10-7 is the sign off for officers who are going off duty and is the message last played when an officer is laid to rest. That’s how it all started.”
Over the weekend, three different families who have suffered the loss of fathers killed in the line of duty journeyed to Gonzales County to participate in the 10-7 Outdoors experience. The Richard Hale family came because their father was killed while on duty working for the Texas Juvenile Justice Division on May 9, 2018. His wife Jenifer and children Jackson (11) and Kynlee (10) arrived on Friday, Nov. 15 to participate in the three-day weekend. Also attending were the members of the Paul Ragsdale family. Paul was an officer with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who was killed on May 24, 2018. His wife Erin and children Aidan (12) and Riley (10) came to honor his memory.
The final family was the Benjamin Wilcher Jr. family from Indiana. Benjamin was a police officer in Gary, Ind. who was killed in the line of duty on Aug. 12, 2007. His widow Amre and children Ben (14) and Ron (12) attended this past weekend.
“We started this in 2014 simply by putting some of our own money into the pot and then began fund-raising by selling t-shirts and hats,” Caldwell said. “We slowly started to raise money, and then we attended police and public functions to spread the word about 10-7 Outdoors and see if we could make a difference.”
“We are a 501 (c) (3) charity, and no one pays a dime to attend our hunts,” Leathers added. “We pay for all their gear, equipment, food — everything. We want them to come and relax, enjoy the outdoors and be happy with friends who genuinely care for them and love them and mentor them if they need help.”
The organization has evolved into a group of people — mostly from law enforcement — who donate their time and love to show the families an outstanding weekend of hunting, fishing and fellowship.
Locally, ranch owner Jim Steel and Gonzales County Sheriff Department officers got together and offered the use of Poco Seco to 10-7 Outdoors. They have been doing if for three years. Families of fallen officers from around the United States apply to be able to take part in the weekend. Up to this point, families from 10 different states have participated.
“It’s an honor to host an event like this for such a tremendous cause,” Steel said. “It is wonderful to have these children and their families out here, and it means so much. The relationships that are built out here over the weekend are for a lifetime.”
Doug DePoma, a retired law enforcement officer with over 35 years of service echoed Steel’s comments.
“It’s all about those kids; it’s great to be around them and it gets pretty emotional to see their joy when they catch their first fish or take down their first animal. The joy in their eyes make it tough not to get emotional,” DePoma said.
Besides hunting and fishing, the 10-7 Outdoors has grown into a mentorship program as well.
“One of the first kids we took was Nathan Stuckey from Louisiana,” Leathers said. “His father was a game warden who was killed in the line of duty. Nathan came on that weekend, and then he came back as a mentor as he got older. Now he’s one of us and he can carry on the tradition we have tried to start her.”
“I can’t tell you how awesome this experience is and what it meant to me,” Stuckey said. “It changed my life and I am thrilled to be here this weekend to provide whatever support and help I can offer.”
For more information on 10-7 Outdoors and how you can help by donating time or money, go to www.10-7Outdoors.com.