ST. LOUIS ( -- The crowd at the 34th annual Guns ‘N Hoses event may have been smaller, but the money raised for Backstoppers hasn’t slowed. 

As audience at the Enterprise Center cheered for firefighters or the police officers in the ring, the 10 portraits are a reminder of why everyone gathers on the Eve of Thanksgiving each year for the event, which was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

“He would just be floored to know that he was honored so greatly,” Kimberly Cook said. Her husband James was shot and killed while working as a security guard for Metrolink in January.

He was one of the 10 first responders honored and one of many that the Backstoppers organization helps every year. 

“It’s a comfort to know that there’s people in your corner when you feel your whole world is gone,” Kimberly Cook said.

James Cook was a Marine and father of two. He is just one of the many young first responders taken in the last year, including Officer Tamarris Bohannon, Officer Tyler Timmins and Officer Brian Pierce.

“We’d love to bring their loved ones back but we can’t do that so we help them in other ways,” Chief Ron Battelle with Backstoppers said.

Among those honored are first responders killed by COVID-19, including St. Louis Firefighter Rodney Hear. He served for 23 years and lost his battle with COVID in June.

COVID has become the leading cause of deaths in the line of duty for officers. And no matter the cause, the families helped by Backstoppers are all trying to figure out how to live without their loved ones.

“You’re trying to maneuver, still trying to figure things out, because is this is the new normal,” said Tracy Nichols, James Cook’s mom.

Over the years, Backstoppers has raised $9 million and helps approximately 90 families, including 70 children.

Copyright 2021 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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