More than 320 community members attended Support 7’s inaugural dinner earlier this month to recognize the tireless work of the emergency first responders who serve South Snohomish County.
First responders, crisis survivors, community members and friends and family of Support 7 filled the Westgate Chapel gymnasium in Edmonds Oct. 18 to raise awareness and honor the work done by the victim support organization.
The banquet invited members of the Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace and Edmonds police departments, South County Fire Authority and other local agencies. In addition to serving as an awareness dinner, the event was a reunion for many first responders and victims they have aided.
“It’s amazing to me how the Lord has woven all of our lives together,” said Support 7 Executive Director Shannon Sessions.
During the event, Sessions spoke about her hopes for the future of the non-profit organization.
“Our focus now is to stimulate the foundation of this critical non-profit organization and make it sustainable so we can continue this sensitive need and work in South Snohomish County with the same heart, integrity and grace as the past 40 years, putting this legacy in motion,” she said.
Since 1981, Support 7 has provided victims and survivors of trauma and crisis with a safe gathering space. The volunteer-based organization was started by Ken Gaydos, a chaplain and Edmonds native who worked with crisis survivors and first responders in the aftermath of events like the Columbine High School shooting, the Oklahoma federal building bombings and Sept. 11 terror attacks in New York City.
Gaydos died in September 2018.
Support 7 began as a small operation in a renovated fire medic unit and has since grown to serve hundreds of local families during times of emergency. The team works with local police officers and firefighters responding to local events, like fires, natural disasters, search and rescue operations, suicide and crimes. According to Sessions, hundreds of hours are donated to assist first responders to care more effectively for victims’ physical, emotional and spiritual needs at times of significant trauma.
“Ken Gaydos is beaming now,” she said. “I think he’s beaming to see all these people in the room.”
Also speaking at the event was Gaydos’ youngest son, Tim, who currently serves as Support 7’s vice president. Following his father’s death, Tim Gaydos said they were uncertain about the future of Support 7 and are pleased to see that it is continuing his father’s legacy by helping those in need.
“Little did Ken know, that an army of loving people would respond to continue and bring life into this amazing work,” he said. ”We are beyond words of the outpouring of love and support.”
In honor of Ken Gaydos’ legacy, the family announced a new tradition by naming a Good Samaritan recipient. According to Gaydos, the Good Samaritan recipient is described as someone who is hospitable, humble, sacrificial and wise.
During the banquet, South County Fire firefighter Steve Francis was recognized as the first Good Samaritan honoree for his volunteerism and service to the community. He was praised by his first responder peers for being highly respected and setting an example for others.
“In a job where our duty is to serve our community, he rises above and beyond,” Ken Gaydos said of Francis. “During tough 911 calls, he is a rock to lean on for family and for crew — a support presence in difficult times.”
Francis this month celebrated 40 years serving with South County Fire. He is a Support 7 member who routinely goes on incident response team calls. He is an active member of his church and works with youth groups. Francis is also a long-time South County Honor Guard member and leads the nation in overtime hours.
Speaking to being recognized for the award, Francis recalled a time that Ken Gaydos helped him and his family during a crisis. During his speech, Francis said he was overwhelmed by the recognition and quoted his favorite Bible verse from Colossians: “‘Whatsoever you do, do it heartily as unto the Lord, not unto men,’” he said.
Francis was presented with a framed image depicting the story of the Good Samaritan and was surprised by the attendance of his family — wife Beth, daughter Jamie and son Ben, who is also a South County Fire firefighter and EMT.
Additionally, the event included a silent auction, memory table featuring photos from the Gaydos family’s private collection, and a video highlighting the work Support 7 has done for the community.
The event was sponsored by the Elizabeth Ruth Wallace Living Trust, North Sound Church and the South County Firefighter Foundation.
Donations are welcome to Support 7. Mail a check, made out to Support 7, to PO Box 2604, Lynnwood, WA 98036, or donate online at www.support7.org. Donations can also be made through PayPal, by emailing email@example.com for additional details.
–By Cody Sexton