Celebrating Heroes

10-24 Project Promotes Gratitude for First Responders

First responders in Florida’s Tampa Bay region have operational communications code “10-24” which stands for “Trouble, send help!” Thankfully, as a policeman I never had to use code 10-24 throughout my entire career. Other first responders may have not had such fortune, encountering momentous incidents which required the cavalry forthwith. The squawk of “10-24!” elicited all ranks to aid an officer in dire need of back-up.

Although fire/rescue squads travel in groups (unlike cops) and ordinarily communicate with un-coded, plain speech (the 10-24 code endemic to law enforcement only), the Project nevertheless embraces the emergent nature of the fire and paramedic services as well.

Some years ago, a Bay-area radio station became privy to this emergency code and created the 10-24 Project whereby schools officially and/or families with children casually endeavor to create Thank you cards and letters for police officers, firefighters and paramedics who work the streets and encounter all manner of danger. Located in Tampa, Florida, Spirit FM radio personalities organize an annual 10-24 Project aggregation of handmade cards/letters generated by children, and then personally disburse them to each and every police station, firehouse and ambulance company in the region.

As a robust and growing metropolis area in the West-Central part of the Sunshine State, the Tampa Bay region encompasses about 9-10 counties among which are plenty of emergency services facilities. For example, Pinellas County has roughly 17 law enforcement agencies alone. My county has approximately 2,200 law enforcement deputies and the nearby county seat of Tampa has roughly 1,000 cops. Add to that the respective cities’ fire/rescue services and you have a potpourri of frontline warriors with whom to shake hands and issue a card of gratitude.

10-24 Project hand-delivers thank you cards created by children and distributes the greetings to Tampa Bay first responders. (Credit: Spirit FM Tampa bay)

The Spirit FM tagline regarding the 10-24 Project is, “Now is the time to send the kind of help we can to some local heroes, our first responders.” The event is always held in October (the tenth month of the year) and on the 24th day (you figured it out already) when collected cards are distributed to the first responders who keep the community safe and assured. According to the Spirit FM site, they ask that anyone with cards to donate to the case “Get them here to Spirit FM by Wednesday, October 24th. And tune in and pray with us at 24 minutes after every hour.”

As I tool around Tampa-town, I’ve been hearing the radio spots for the 10-24 Project broadcast quite often. I am piqued as to how many contributions they accumulate yearly and the growth since the project’s inception.

New to the team this year is the addition of Chic-fil-A, a strident supporter of first responders in general, especialy during mass shootings and/or other major events where/when cops and fire/rescue personnel are gathered for extended periods of time while operational pursuits are handled. First responders gotta eat too, right? Across the nation, Chic-fil-A has graciously opened their eateries to this public safety demographic. No need to list those restaurants who have exhibited blatant disregard for public safety officials; karma has that handled, I’m sure.

This year, select Bay-area Chic-fil-As are being billed “10-24 Creation Stations,” serving as drop-off points and collecting cards for first responders in their respective areas.

As Spirit FM radio personality Abby Watts said: “Gather your prayer groups, classrooms, homeschool co-ops or just gather around your dinner table and show your support for our local first responders by making a card or writing a letter to tell them you appreciate them and are praying for them. We’ll distribute them to the stations and offices throughout Spirit FM‘s listening area.” Volunteers to help deliver the goods to public safety personnel are encouraged to apply.

Then again, sometimes it works out differently. Not at all surprising for first responders, the police chief and fire chief of the City of Gulfport (Pinellas County) opted to visit students at Gulfport Elementary School. As elementary school teacher Barbara Pace described it on October 24, 2015: “We at GULFPORT ELEMENTARY had our ’10-24’ day this a.m., we were joined by the Fire Chief and the Police Chief of Gulfport, they joined us in the Pledge [of Allegiance], were presented with our cards, letters and posters of thanks! The Fire Chief then asked if we would like the fire truck to visit? Sure, and up came [a] firetruck, 5 more firemen, and they spent time with the Pre-K and Kindergarten students, they were so grateful!” It is safe to assume Ms. Pace meant both kids and first responders were “so grateful.” I know I would be, especially when community comes together in spirit.

Whoever said it was a “thankless job”?

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Content Manager and Contributor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

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