We had the good fortune of connecting with Melody Mesmer and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Melody, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?

Foundation 1023 is a non profit organization founded in 2016. In 2015 Colorado experienced a significant number of First Responder deaths due to suicide, accident, and illness. One of those deaths was Kristin McLain, her badge number was 1023. These deaths, that were so close together, effected the First Responder community a great deal. A group of us discussing the losses and pain, came to the realization that the First Responders in our communities were going out every day and taking care of total strangers, frequently in unsafe situations and we were doing little to care for ourselves. I have been a Paramedic Firefighter in Colorado for over 20 years, and knew first hand the impact of what we see on a daily basis, and how the impact deepened when one of our own was involved. With these realizations and a ton of personal drive, Foundation 1023 was born.

We modeled our organization off of another non-profit providing similar services to families effected by cancer, put together some fund-raising events and in June of 2016 we served our first client. We provide funding and connection for First Responders to get mental wellness care for themselves or family members. One aspect that is completely different about our program is the anonymity. Some employers offer EAP programs, the state offers some programs, but none of them have the level of privacy or anonymity that we offer. With the heavy amount of stigma that is connect to mental wellness, First Responders are hesitant to ask for help in fear of being judged, taken offline or no getting promoted in the future. Foundation 1023 works very hard to not only offer safe care options, but to also extend the importance of mental wellness, whole body wellness, peer support and early recognition of Post Traumatic Stress injuries. Our goal is to keep First Responders happy, healthy, and productive, not only at work, but at home for their families, and in their communities.

Foundation 1023 also offers Peer Support Specialist Training, Peer supported activities and most recently Suicide Prevention and Education under our “Living to the Max” section named after Max Wekesser, a local First Responder who completed suicide.

To date, we have provided over 2700 First Responders (or family members) with over 10000 hours of mental wellness care. We have assisted in training over 500 peer support team members, and paid out just over $990,000.00 for mental wellness services provided by culturally competent professional counselors. Our staff is currently all volunteer and we are a donor driven organization, relying on donations , sponsorships and fundraising events.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?

I was born and raised in Colorado and have lived all over the State. From the Denver suburbs to the Western Slope, graduating from Montrose High School, where I transitioned to Eastern Colorado to attend College. It was there, in Fort Morgan Colorado where I met my husband. We were married there and had all of our kids there. We have three daughters together and my husband has a son from a previous relationship. After our kids were born, I went to EMT school and then joined the volunteer ambulance company. I loved the work and very quickly knew I wanted to attend paramedic school. We moved to Thornton CO. and I completed my paramedic training in 1998. I worked for Northglenn Ambulance and a local doctors office for a few years before taking job in Conifer, Colorado for Elk Creek Fire Protection. It was here that I completed my fire training. While working there, I was approached by Centura St. Anthony Hospital to join their PreHospital team as an educator, and I transitioned to volunteer status at Elk Creek Fire, I have been with Centura for 17 years. I work as an EMS Coordinator offering training, education and quality improvement to area EMS agencies, and managing several of the special events we cover as an organization.

It was through my role with Centura, that I had such close ties to several of the personnel that were lost over the years, including when Flight for Life Colorado and Centura experienced the loss of a dear friend on July 3rd, 2015 when Lifeguard 2 crashed in Frisco CO just after take off. An incident that also injured two of our peers, one of which was in the hospital for a year. Centura and my coworkers have been incredibly supportive of Foundation 1023 and its mission. Their support and guidance has helped us grow, helped us support our agencies and fellow First Responders. I am both proud and humbled by the work I get to do. Taking care of people (strangers or peers) in their most important moments of need is filled with purpose and surrounds me with community.

The years in this profession have taught me a lot. Some good and some probably bad. There are times I feel bad for my kids. When you grow up in a house with medical professionals, you probably have to lose a limb before someone will take you to the doctor. (😂LOL😂). and on the flip side, I have been to enough car crashes, that the simple thought of teaching my daughters to drive was just something I couldn’t do. My husband had to do it! Every one of those car crashes would flash through my head and now my girls were going to be on those roads, WAY too scary! It was times like this that I look back on and see that mental wellness care would have been important and well utilized then, not just after catastrophe hit. I know now that even the tough guys, the salty dogs, the stoic folks that say “I’m fine” ” “I don’t cry” or” I’m good”… are not. Being a First Responder is going to leave a mark. We just have to decide if it going to be permanent or something we can deal with, treat and move forward.

I look back at the incidents and the people in my life that I may have had a conflict or disagreement with, and now, today; I appreciate them. Every single thing that happens in your life touches you, teaches you, and melds you into who you are. The only thing you get to do is decide how you respond and how that impact will influence you. will it be positive or negative. I hope that through my years in field, years teaching and mentoring others, and now through offering a service directly for care of the minds and souls of fellow first responders; that I can impact at least one person everyday in a positive way.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?

I love this question! There are very few places around the state I haven’t been to, but in Denver there is so much going on all the time! Breakfast… Denver Biscuit Company! Tennyson location is my favorite. Then when we are done, because I have a coffee thing, probably going to swing on over to Mint and Seriff on Colfax to get a fresh americano for the road.

Mornings take just a bit to warm up, so after coffee, we are going to drive little south and throw the standup paddle boards on to Soda Lake at Bear Creek Park. Get some sun, and some water therapy. After a good paddle we are going to swing into Morrison, have a margarita on the rooftop at the Morrison Inn. Walk the local shops while we pass the time and then head over to the Fort for our dinner reservations. (It WILL be someone’s birthday, so they have to wear the traders hat!)

Day two will be breakfast at Snooze, then a full day at the museum of natural history, catching whatever is showing at IMAX and enjoying whatever special exhibit is showing at the time. When we are done, we will run down Colfax, to the 15th and Vine area and grab some ice cream from LIK’s. (the owner Jay Thompson used to be my shift partner at Elk Creek Fire).
Then we will grab a baseball game at Coors field (hoping that the Cardinals are in town as they are my favorite team. Don’t hate, I was a Cardinals fan before Denver even had a team!). After the game, we are down for a solid dinner at the Chop House.

Day three. Grab some coffee and breakfast at EAT! near the flatirons mall. Then drive through Boulder and hike up to Boulder falls for some pictures and some outdoor time and picnic. We will tool around the are a bit looking some of local little hidden gems like Sunshine and the beauty of Left Hand Canyon. For the afternoon, early dinner, head down into Longmont to Oskar Blues Brewery.

Day four, we need some decompression girl time! So we are headed to Cherry Creek for some shopping therapy and light lunch, wrapping up our excursion with a full hour float at VIVE salt water float studio.

Day five We are headed to the botanical gardens for a light quiet morning. Afternoon we at Dreambent Tattoo’s for spontaneous ink therapy and then we are headed to Red Rocks for the evening for Film on the Rocks. Who doesn’t love a concert and a movie! Especially at Red Rocks. The crowds are great for people watching, so interactive! So much fun!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?

I have two shout outs! One is to our volunteer teams and the families that surround us. Our volunteers give countless hours to plan our fundraising events, show up at outreach events, help teach peer support classes and counselor competency classes, and they usually have their family with them, giving us extra help with all the things. From setting up tents and tables, to taking pictures, to helping with the website and promotional processes! Everyone’s time is valuable and we are incredibly thankful for every minute they give to support our peers in the First Responder industries.

My second hands down, is our donors, sponsors, and partners. We could not make this work happen without the incredible support our companies, family members and total strangers who care. In our world, the person that can afford to share $5 is as valuable and important as those that share $1000.00. Every donated dollar matters. It matters to the Firefighter who is in crisis or the Paramedic that has just witnessed a scene that even movie producers couldn’t make up. It matters to the police officer that has worked 25 years with his law enforcement family and is afraid to retire, because he might be alone. Every dollar matters! (Donations are accepted on our website! Foundation1023.org)

Website: www.foundation1023.org

Instagram: https://instagram.com/melmesmer


Linkedin: Foundation 1023 or connect thought my page at Melody Mesmer

Twitter: https://twitter.com/foundation1023

Facebook: Facebook.com/foundation1023

Image Credits
Head shot by Emily Johnson

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