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Celebrate First Responder Wellness Week in Watauga County

First Responders face trauma and dangerous situations on a near daily basis, which is why The Watauga County Board of Commissioners approved a proclamation naming April 24 through 30 as First Responder Wellness Week. 

The proclamation was requested by members of the newly founded Responder Wellness Coalition. During this week, the coalition invites the community to join them in celebrating emergency services personnel. Each day of the week brings a new event meant to thank and celebrate first responders. 

The week kicks off with a First Responder Breakfast at Dan’l Boone Inn on Monday, April 24, at 7:30 a.m. Join the Responder Wellness Coalition at a sit-down breakfast for the first responders of Watauga County.  All Watauga County first responders will receive a free breakfast. Walk-ins will be welcomed, but organizers ask that you RSVP. 

The week’s grand finale is an Adam Church concert in remembrance of Logan Fox and Chris Ward at Appalachian Ski Mountain. Sgt. Chris Ward and K-9 Deputy Logan Fox were killed in the line of duty while performing a welfare check at a home in Boone on April 28, 2021. “We want to do something to celebrate their lives,” said founder and director, Valerie Mailman. A candlelight vigil for Ward and Fox will be incorporated into the event. Candles will be provided.

Ticket prices for Concert for the Cause follow a pay-what-you-can model and all of the proceeds from the concert will be donated to Responder Wellness Coalition of the High Country.  Mailman said she hopes that this pay model will allow those first responders who traditionally have a lower pay scale, to attend. “My hope is the people that can afford to pay will, and that will help cover the cost of attendance for the first responders.” 

The mission of the Responder Wellness Coalition is to eliminate the barriers for first responders of the High Country to access mental health care and wellness services. To achieve this mission, the coalition has three goals. The first is creating access to culturally competent mental health care and wellness resources for first responders of the High Country. The second is funding out-of-pocket expenses for mental and behavioral health care and wellness services for first responders. The final goal is breaking down the stigma surrounding mental and behavioral health care for first responders of the High Country.