Inspiring Community Effort Raises $10,000 for Marshfield Police Department Drone

Marshfield, WI (OnFocus) Thanks to an inspiring community effort, the Marshfield Police Department will be able to move forward with the purchase of a drone.

Proceeds from the Salute a Soldier 5k event held on May 18 were presented to officers this week by organizer Kristen Niehaus. The event is held annually in memory of her brother, Joe Altmann, who was killed in action in Afghanistan on Christmas Day, 2011, and has supported a variety of military and first responder-related projects.

“We were absolutely blown away with the amount that was collected,” said Police Chief Rick Gramza. “We didn’t know what to expect. Anything was going to be beneficial. When Kristen presented us with a check for $8,500, that was mind-blowing. We are so blessed to be in this community with that kind of support.”

Though the 6th year of Salute a Soldier was also the coldest, the event was success. “Our sponsorship was amazing,” Niehaus said. “We had some incredible donors and sponsors this year.”

After learning on Facebook about the department’s goal to raise $10,000 toward a drone, a grassroots effort was undertaken by Randy Mess to raise the rest of the funds in less than 48 hours.

“I said, we can do this,” said Mess. “I called Mike O’Reilly up, who does a lot for the community, and said hey Mike, here’s the deal.”

The pair put out a challenge for small businesses to donate $100, and once they explained the cause, had no trouble finding contributors. On Friday afternoon, Mess and O’Reilly presented $1,500 to the department.

Assistant Chief Pat Zeps holds the final checks with Mike O’Reilly.

“I have no words,” Niehaus said. “It’s just amazing that a couple of phone calls was all it took to meet our goals.”

Though neither served themselves, Mess and O’Reilly have known family members and friends in the military and were happy to present the rest of the funds on behalf of Salute a Soldier.

“It’s a good thing,” said Mess of using drones. “We’re not putting these officers in harm way.”

Now that the funds have been raised, the department will better be able to determine which drone to buy and train officers to use it. The potential uses for the drone, which will have thermal imaging capabilities, include taking aerial photos of crashes or crime scenes and searching for missing persons.