‘Weight of the Badge’ attracts 250 to unique emergency responder event

Pictured left to right are Christi and Dave Dyke, with Dave’s PTSD service dog, Nya, Winneshiek County Emergency Services Director Sean Snyder and Joe Smarro. (submitted)

Winneshiek County Emergency Management Director Sean Snyder recently reported that the “Weight of the Badge” conference, held this spring, for active or retired law enforcement, jailers, dispatchers, firefighters, EMS, utility workers, veterans and their significant others/spouses, was a tremendous success.

“I’ve had nothing but positive feedback,” said Snyder, adding that about 250 professionals and significant others attended. “The conference was amazing, and I hope it starts the conversation to let emergency responders know it’s okay to not be okay.”

The conference featured two presentations; one by Dave and Christi Dyke, who presented their program “Stronger than the Storm: A New Purpose” and another by decorated combat veteran and former police officer Joe Smarro, who presented “We Need to Talk.”

“I liked both speakers equally,” Snyder said. “For Dave and Christi, it is very raw, because their experiences are more recent. And, Joe’s story goes all the way back to when he was a young kid, so he’s had many years of therapy and learning how to live with the effects of trauma, and he showed that there is life on the other end — that there are ways to get help and get through it. There was a good dynamic between the two presentations, and together, they were very comprehensive.”

One unique aspect of Snyder’s conference was the inclusion of professionals’ significant others and spouses, and he said he couldn’t have received a better response.

“Including the spouses in the conference was very meaningful,” Snyder said. “To my knowledge, this conference was the first of its kind; trying to get the significant other or spouse to attend. There were a lot of significant others in attendance, and a lot of them thanked me for including them. So, that was very well received.”

The conference was sponsored by businesses and private donors, which meant participants could attend free of charge.

“The last thing I want to do is saddle these essential professionals, who are attending for stress-related reasons, with more expenses,” Snyder said. “It wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the sponsors.”

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