My husband, Officer Kyle Henricksen, started his law enforcement career in 2005 with Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. In 2009 he was a lateral transfer to Pleasanton Police Department and that was his home for the next nearly 11 years until 2018 when he was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer at 36.
Twelve months and five days from diagnosis his fight was over. The one thing that was constant from the moment we told his department about his diagnosis until even now, a little over a year after his passing, is that they are there for me and our four kids (or the “gremlins” as Dad affectionately nicknamed them). PPD and ACSO have shown up for us in ways I never even knew I would need.
As we were going through our battle I was inundated with messages of support and love from LEO’s and their spouses from all over the country. One of the women who reached out to me was a fellow LEOW, Kristen Sweaza. Kristen operates Blue_Wives_Matter, a small non-profit that provides support to LE families experiencing loss, no matter the cause of death. She added me to her support group Widows Enforcement on Facebook, a place where I was among other spouses who had been through the unimaginable, just like me. It was among these other spouses that I learned just how lucky we were to have the support from my husband’s police department, something I will FOREVER be grateful for, because so many other spouses of fallen officers unfortunately do not receive the same support.
A couple weeks after Kyle passed Kristen reached out to me and asked if my two youngest kids would like to be included in her Patches of Honor Program. She explained that it was something she had started for fallen officers’ children, something they could look forward to and to keep them feeling close to the LE family. I of course said, “Yes! They will love that”. When they got their first patches, they were so excited, they divided them up and decided who got which ones. Zoey (my 14-year-old daughter) even made a special box to keep her patches in. My kids look forward to getting their patches every month. My son, Cohen, inevitably picks the “cool” looking ones and Zoey always goes for the more obscure ones, like places she’s never heard of before.
After losing Kyle I decided we needed a fresh start, so we moved from California to Texas, and it was not without the help of our police department and sheriff’s office family. When we got settled in Texas there was an event that connected our police department to our new hometown agency and subsequently put me in contact with Captain Shane Jennings with Flower Mound Police Department in Texas. I mentioned the Patches of Honor Program and he jumped at the chance to give my kids patches from our new local police department and other patches he had collected from different law enforcement conferences over the years. He also gave me a stack of patches for Kristen to send out to other kids in the program.
I know she started this program with the help of many people in the law enforcement family. She did this because in all of her involvement helping other widows through some of the hardest times in their lives, she found that not all of them were as lucky as me, not all of them had their spouse’s departments continued support. When you go through such a catastrophic event like this you’re thrown into a whirlwind of planning and decision making but then the dust settles. It’s those that are there when that happens that really matter. Her goal is to be that person for these families. To make sure these kids know that no matter what, they are still part of a bigger family.
Here’s what my kids had to say: Zoey – “This program is very important to me. It helps me feel close to my police family even when I’m not, it gives me something to admire, and it shows me that I’m never alone. I have a family in the police force all over the country. People I’ve never met are kind enough to give me and other kids these patches just to make us feel better, and it works.”
Cohen – “I love the patch program because it’s cool to see a bunch of different patches from each city and state. It also reminds me that the blue family always has mine and my family’s back.”
At time of publication, Kristen currently has 88 kids in her Patches of Honor Program. In order for this program to continue on successfully she needs the help from our law enforcement family. She needs patches, stickers, basic swag donations from all over so that these kids have a little something to look forward to and hopefully put a smile on their faces. Blue_Wives_Matter is running low on patch inventory. In order to continue the program, they are in serious need of your donations. Any number of patches will help. She will accept used patches, new patches, challenge coins, stickers, or any LE related goodies that can fit into a small care package.
Blue_Wives_Matter is a non-profit 501(c)3, Federal Tax ID # 84-5078059. Patches and other donations for the children can be sent to: Blue_Wives_Matter PO Box 6441 Orange, CA 92863-6441. If you are interested in learning more about Blue_Wives_Matter or would like to make a financial donation, contact them at [email protected] They also have a page on Facebook you can go to at: https://www.facebook.com/BlueWivesMatter/ In addition to the patch program, BWM provides other services to the families and your financial support would be a great help to these often forgotten members of the law enforcement community.
– Jenn Henricksen