OAK GROVE — A Missouri nonprofit that provides help to military personnel and first responders chose a Sedalia Police Department officer as one of three recipients of a car at an event Saturday afternoon.
Our Brothers Keeper is a nonprofit that works to prevent and reduce military personnel and first responder suicide. Paradise Outfitter Ministries hosted the Ride To End Veteran Suicide Saturday in Oak Grove as a fundraiser and to give cars to three first responders, one of them being SPD Officer Larry Parham.
“It’s called Our Brothers Keeper because we deal with veteran and first responder suicides,” said Branna Sparks, who is involved in the organization and helped plan the event. “Pretty much we give them the help, give them the assets that they need to give them that extra push. If they’re like having suicidal thoughts we help them, we try to prevent it. We help with housing, rent, anything that we can help with to get these guys back where they need to be.”
The event started at 8 a.m. with a charity ride. Attendees spent the rest of the day socializing, eating food and listening to live music. There was also an auction and raffle followed by the car donation ceremony.
Parham received a 2003 Buick during the car donation ceremony. Parham has been with the SPD since 2001. He is a gang specialist who was awarded the Midwest Gang Investigators Association Officer of the Year in 2008. He is also an instructor at the Central Missouri Police Academy.
Parham found himself in a tough situation this summer when his neighbor’s tree fell on his car.
“There was a big storm during the (Missouri State) Fair, I didn’t think anything of it but that morning I was going to work and there’s a tree on the car,” Parham told the Democrat. “It busted out the windshield, bent it up and everything. We go and talk to the neighbor and he was like, ‘I already talked to my insurance about it and they said it was an ‘act of God’ so they wouldn’t cover it.”
Parham’s insurance would not cover the damage either so he had to pay to get the car fixed enough to get to and from work. In a prepared statement from Parham that was read during the ceremony, Parham spoke about getting nominated.
“I believe about it being an act of God because shortly after posting about it on Facebook, a young lady by the name of Branna Sparks contacted me and asked me if I could use a new vehicle,” read Parham’s statement.
Parham also said he was “excited” and “thankful” to be receiving the vehicle.
According to Sparks, there were roughly 70 nominees this year and the three who received the vehicles were chosen based on their need.
“A lot of them, they have another car. In Larry’s case he didn’t have another car — that was his only car because his wife doesn't drive,” Sparks explained.
“There’s checks and balances system we have to use, like what they need. He just happened to be one of the people that didn't have another car. … I’m super excited to see him get it.”
The three vehicles were donated by Lee’s Summit Subaru, which also donated the cars last year. Warranties were also put on the vehicles. One recipient is expecting a baby so the car was also filled with baby items.
The other two recipients did not know they were getting a vehicle. Alex is a firefighter at the Inter City Fire Protection District and an EMT. He served in the Navy and spent six months deployed to the Carribean where his main purpose was to prevent the trafficking of drugs into the United States. Stephanie has been an ER, trauma, and ICU nurse for 16 years. She also goes on international surgical missions to repair facial defects in children living in countries such as Nicaragua, Iran, Dominican Republic, and Congo. She has worked as a volunteer firefighter and a medic as well.
“This is what we do,” said Bradley Jackson, an event organizer and master of ceremonies. “This is how we try to impact on our veterans and our first responders. Little stuff like this. In the long run, the impact that this is going to make is huge. It’s small stuff that eases the pressure. That’s what we’re trying to do is ease that pressure because in real life it’s just the little things in life that stack up and put you over the edge.”