LEEP honored as a Community Partner
—By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor
It’s hard to imagine what a roller coaster ride this year has been for POLC Labor Rep. Will Keizer, from raising the bar to the highest level yet for participation and fundraising during Gilda’s Run in July, to training another POLC Labor Rep. to take over organizing the annual event he founded, followed by the unexpected passing of his father in October. Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids representatives were by his side for each of these milestones, so it only seemed fitting to share a fourth milestone with them.
On Nov. 15, 2016, Keizer accepted a Community Partner Award bestowed upon Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP) and the POLC during Gilda’s Night of Gratitude at Thousand Oaks Golf Club in Grand Rapids. Gilda’s Club provides emotional support to cancer patients and their families.
Keizer attended the event with his widowed mother, Diane and his wife, Amy less than a month after his dad, Bill, 81, lost his battle with stage 4 lung and bone cancer. Keizer, who helped support this organization for 16 years, for the first time found himself on the inside receiving services with his dad.
“In early October, my son, my father and I went to Gilda’s to explore what was there for us, as dad had been diagnosed with cancer. On Oct. 20, my father passed away, but this ride will continue in his memory,” Keizer said when accepting the award.
He shared how Gilda’s Run got its start in July 2000, after he went for a motorcycle ride with a group of 10 people and they talked about making it an annual event. “We discussed making it a charity event and I remembered a new organization that popped up on Bridge St. Hill that I had been hearing about. We decided to pass the hat and all kicked in twenty bucks…and Gilda’s Run was born,” Keizer told the audience. “This fundraising event became an annual rite and we get riders from all over the Midwest who have adopted this Run as their “must-do” summer thing. My folks were always supportive and proud of this fundraiser.”
The Community Partner Award is given to an organization that exemplifies what it means to support Gilda’s Club through innovative fundraising concepts and being genuine ambassadors of Gilda’s Club. “We are thankful for those who are committed to support thousands of children, adults, families and friends facing a cancer or grief journey,” said Wendy Wigger, president, Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids. “We want to celebrate their impact and share our deepest gratitude for their continued support.”
In all, Gilda’s Run has raised over $200,000 for the charity. “We pick out three or four organizations that have done extraordinary things above and beyond the call of duty,” Daryl Vogel, Gilda’s Club Vice President of Development said earlier. “We believe it’s way overdue and (the POLC & LEEP) are very deserving of it.”
“The Police Officers Labor Council and Law Enforcement Education Program have adopted this Run as an avenue to further our commitment and give back to our community. We are very proud and honored to receive this award. Thank you,” Keizer said.
The Night of Gratitude was aptly named as Gilda’s Club helps families cope during very difficult times. “Overall the event was a complete success and Will did a magnificent job keeping it together with Diane, his recently widowed mother, in attendance,” Vogel said. “The comedian after the awards did a great job of sending the audience home in good spirits.”
Famed Saturday Night Live Comedian Gilda’s Radner, the Club’s namesake, is the motivation behind the laughter. Her brother, Michael Radner, was also honored at the event with the Spirit of Gilda Award for supporting Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids through openly sharing the mission of cancer and grief support with their friends, colleagues, and the community.