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Over $280,000 raised at local 9/11 Tribute Banquet to help first responders

Andrea Olson, EastIdahoNews.com
IDAHO FALLS — Hundreds of people showed support over the weekend to remember September 11, while raising over $280,000 for first responders.
The local nonprofit Heroes Defense held its “9th Annual 9/11 Tribute Banquet” on Saturday at the Blue Cross of Idaho Conference Center inside the Mountain America Center in Idaho Falls.
Co-founder of Heroes Defense Garrett Meikle told EastIdahoNews.com that Sept. 11 draws memories back to a pivotal time in history where the world changed.
“We all promised to never forget, but now 20+ years removed and a different landscape in the world today, sometimes it seems those feelings of patriotism and unity aren’t as prevalent,” said Meikle. “As an organization, we want the first responders and veterans, especially our local ones, to know we haven’t forgotten and are continually grateful for what they are still doing today.”
Retired FDNY Capt. Kevin Calhoun spoke along with retired FDNY firefighter Billy Carlson. Carlson shared what he remembered that day in New York.

Kevin Calhoun speaking about his experiences. | Andrea Olson, EastIdahoNews.com
“Two buildings that have been a part of my whole life, living in New York — the Twin Towers — I have been there so many times on class trips, been to the top of these buildings and they are burning. They are burning down. Smoke is billowing out of these towers,” Carlson recalled.
“We bring these guys that were out at Ground Zero and will tell you and share with you the importance of the community support and the importance of the sacrifices that were made, stories and information that we have never heard,” said Travis Snowder, co-founder of Heroes Defense.
Nearly 3,000 people died from the terrorist attacks. A list of fallen firefighters, police, EMS and construction workers who have died this year due to 9/11-related illnesses was shared at the banquet.
Additionally, there were two pieces of steel on display. Heroes Defense worked with FDNY and local fire departments to obtain the pieces from the Twin Towers. The two pieces will be in Ammon and Idaho Falls. Heroes Defense will be constructing two memorials from the donations from the banquet.

One of the pieces of steel at the event. | Andrea Olson, EastIdahoNews.com

The other piece of steel. | Andrea Olson, EastIdahoNews.com
Snowder explained that the first part of the banquet is to properly memorialize, show gratitude for the sacrifices of 9/11, and pay tribute to first responders.
The second part includes silent and live auctions along with raffles to help raise funds for first responders. Meikle said last year, over $100,000 was raised.
“This year, we are doubling in attendance, we are tripling in revenue, the sponsors have stepped up massively this year,” Snowder said.
Heroes Defense hoped to raise $285,000 and they were able to go past that amount from generous donations.

Some of the items that were part of the live auction. | Andrea Olson, EastIdahoNews.com
There were FDNY bomber jackets auctioned off along with a 2023 Indian Scout Motorcycle, a charcoal firefighter drawing, trips to Mexico, a NYC guided tour with Kevin Calhoun, among many other items. A side-by-side was raffled off, too.

The side-by-side at the event that was raffled off. | Andrea Olson, EastIdahoNews.com
“Seeing community members and businesses come together and put their financial support directly behind these first responders and veterans is very inspiring. I’m sure our local heroes are grateful to know they have this type of community behind them,” said Meikle.
And the money raised from banquets in the past has helped local first responders. Recently, Bonneville County Fire District #1 Ammon Division was donated the jaws of life.
RELATED | Local firefighters receive donation from nonprofit that will help them with vehicle wrecks
Heroes Defense donated two extrication tools worth about $23,000, which are cutters and spreaders. Click here to read the story. The money came from the 9/11 banquet last year.
Snowder says he loves to see the community come out and show support.
“It’s a feeling that you can’t replicate. Our community is phenomenal. So the people that come to the event—the attendees, the sponsors, every volunteer that’s here— all of them believe full-heartedly in the purpose and mission,” Snowder said.

Travis Snowder speaking at the banquet. | Andrea Olson, EastIdahoNews.com
Meikle added that part of the mission for Heroes Defense is they want to continue to build support and awareness from the community about the challenges these heroes face and find ways to help provide resources. Click here to learn more about Heroes Defense.
Snowder announced at the banquet that the Tunnel to Towers Foundation–which provides mortgage-free homes to fallen first responder families with young children and builds specially adapted smart homes for catastrophically injured veterans and first responders–is joining Heroes Defense’s cause.
He added that they are working to get them out from New York City to the Idaho Falls area next year and bring a mobile 9/11 exhibit.

Hundreds of people came to attend the 9th Annual 9/11 Tribute Banquet Saturday night. | Andrea Olson, EastIdahoNews.com
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Source: eastidahonews.com

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