By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — This summer, Margie Lindmark saw fresh evidence of the need for the confidential counseling services the nonprofit Greg Lindmark Foundation provides for police, firefighters and other first responders.
It came in the days and weeks after a gruesome crime that shook the community: A 10-year-old girl was kidnapped and killed while she was playing with her 6-year-old sister near her home.
The foundation doesn’t know who or why its confidential services are used, but shortly after it saw its expenses spike for counseling by a factor of about seven.
“When I opened the bill it was $7,000 in just three weeks of services,” Lindmark said. “Had they not had our services, they wouldn’t have any place to go.”
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So far this year, Lindmark said expenses are up 104% for the foundation.
She shared that information as the foundation prepares for an upcoming fundraiser next month. The Hero Climb, which pays tribute to fallen first responders while raising money for The Greg Lindmark Foundation, returns for its second year on Sept. 10.
The event challenges participants to climb 110 flights of stairs at Guilford High School’s Swanson Stadium to symbolize the path to the top of the World Trade Center and honor those who responded to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“It is just amazing what they have to go through to climb the stairs and how much stamina it takes,” said Deb Alms, who did the climb last year wearing fire gear that belongs to her husband, Jay, battalion chief at Harlem Roscoe Fire Dept. “It literally takes your breath away. You have to stop and you have to rest and you have to collect yourself and keep going.”
Greg Lindmark spent 30 years with the Rockford Police Department before retiring in 2011 as deputy chief and going on to create the investigative bureau for the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office. He died by suicide on Feb. 9, 2015, at age 53. He worked in law enforcement up until his death.
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Family members created the foundation shortly after his death to raise awareness about the cumulative stress that police and first responders face and to provide funding for police, firefighters, corrections officers and first responders to receive counseling whenever needed.
“They need to get rid of that heavy burden that they have, instead of letting it build,” Alms said. “It’s easier, I think, to get rid of it little by little.”
Margie Lindmark, who is married to Greg’s brother Brad, said they’ve seen progress in the past eight years as more people are willing to seek help.
“Even kids in school and what happened with COVID, more and more people are talking about mental health,” she said.
Lindmark said she’s also heard stories about the success of the program from family members who called her to say the foundation helped save their loved one’s life.
“We know that it’s working,” Margie said.
She hopes to see families climbing the stairs of Swanson Stadium next month because children and spouses of first responders can be the first ones to recognize that their loved one needs help.
“I’d really like to make it a family event because those are the first people that recognize: mom and dad come home and something is not right,” Lindmark said. “The sooner it gets recognized and talked about and normalized, the less chance we have of that end results of drugs, alcohol abuse and the final, suicide.”
Join the climb
When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10
Where: Swanson Stadium at Guilford High School, 2801 Shaw Woods Drive, Rockford
Tickets: $20 (includes commemorative T-shirt, memorial lanyard and finisher medal). Proceeds benefit The Greg Lindmark Foundation.
Get tickets here: Rockford Hero Climb 2023 on Eventbrite