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Sandy PD Partners with Circle the Wagons, Providing Cans of Comfort

Dec 07, 2015 12:27PM ● Published by Stacy Nielsen

By Stacy Nielsen  

Sandy - The Sandy City Police Department joined the likes of six other police agencies by teaming up with Circle the Wagons Organization to provide ‘Cans of Comfort’ to innocent victims or survivors of violent crimes this past November.

Circle the Wagons was founded by its executive director, Vickie Walker, after she tragically lost her husband and her son was critically injured in the Trolley Square Shooting in 2007.

“That’s something that throws your life into a tailspin that you haven’t anticipated, experiencing things that you weren’t prepared for and you don’t know what to ask for. When something like this happens, you are just flying blind,” Walker said. “How do you ever plan for something like this? You need to familiarize yourself with the resources within your community if you ever find yourself in that unfortunate situation. We didn’t know there was an organization that would assist with funeral costs and therapy; we didn’t know what to ask for from the community.”

A year and half after her husband Jeff was killed, they tried to go back and replicate their old life to find out it had been irrevocably changed.

“I kept thinking how grateful I was for the community. We received service-oriented letters, notes, hugs: it was pretty amazing. There were a lot of resources that would have been helpful to our family, had I known about them,” Walker said. 

After determining there was no way to be able to go back to the life they previously had – as she had lost her job because her son, A.J., survived but experienced a traumatic brain injury and was in intensive recuperative therapy – she decided she needed to give back to the community as much as they gave to her. 

“Many times people have the support of neighbors or their church, but not everyone has that large support system,” Walker said. 

She didn’t know everything about victim’s survivor’s services, but that was the area that she was going to try to help. Walker started Circle the Wagons with the intention of helping people who found themselves in similar situations, and so that she could give back to the community. With the help of victim services, she designed the Can of Comfort.

“Children are given a teddy bear or bags that people prepare or blankets handed off to a child, but when an adult is victimized you are brought to your knees,” Walker said. “We wanted something that would be unusual enough and stand out for a family. A file folder might never be opened or might be lost in the craziness of your life, and it’s too much information when you are in shock and you don’t know what you need.”

The can is meant to draw attention as a reminder there is some valuable information with it, and they fill the can with lemon drops. There is a tag on the side of the can that lists the resources available and includes a 96-hour survival guide checklist – information needed in the first 96 hours after something tragic happens.  

“We will meet with a victim or survivor and give them information to move through the legal system or the process,” Walker said. “They can be handed out to a victim of rape, or result of a murder, or a car accident. We are in the process of developing a can that is specific to suicide, that is expected to launch the end of 2016,” Walker said, as the parameters and response is very different for suicide.

The feedback from the community about Circle the Wagons has been positive. 

“I received a letter from a young woman who received our can of comfort, who felt alone because she had no family or friends here. She said it was the first thing that gave her hope in the whole process,” Walker said.

Circle the Wagons has partnered with Salt Lake, South Salt Lake, West Valley, Tooele, Murray, Unified and now Sandy Police Departments, and they hand out anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 cans a year. 

Salsa Leedos has also recently joined in and they are donating gift certificates for a meal for 4 to 6 people that someone can pick up and take to the family if they don’t have that support. Someone from the Victim’s Advocates can pick them up and hand them out with the can. 

The Cans of Comfort have received a lot of national press and recognition as people remember their name and their website. Circle the Wagons is currently in the process of gathering resources for their website, in order for each state in the United States to have links that will direct people to victim’s services. However, they are still in need of researchers to get the correct links on the website. They are also starting a scholarship fund for children who lost an innocent parent to homicide.

“As the fund grows, maybe we can open it up to more situations, but right now it is pretty defined for that purpose for higher education or vocational training,” Walker said.

This past November, the Sandy Police Department was presented with the Cans of Comfort that their officers will be able to have on hand to pass along at their discretion, either at the scene of the crime or immediately after.  

“The Cans of Comfort will fill a need that I think will prove very valuable to survivors and victims of these life-changing events. We’re very excited to take part in this program,” Sandy Police Chief Thacker said.

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