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Partnership with Pasco County Fire Rescue

Captain of Personnel Michael Brake of the Pasco County Fire Rescue met with SLFF representative, Chris LaDue LaPace, to brainstorm about how the SLFF might partner with PCFR to strengthen the behavioral health wellness for their firefighters and EMS personnel.

It was quickly agreed that building greater awareness about the concerns firefighters/EMS may face with cumulative stress overload and PTSD is a priority focus.  These stress factors impact the quality of life for firefighters and their families, and sadly, can lead to suicide. Identifying the risks early is key to building awareness and providing help. Fire Chief Scott Cassin and Captain Brake extended invitation to SLFF representatives to visit firehouses and attend PCFR department sponsored picnics to build relationships and provide resource materials.

SLFF Provides Grant for Suicide Prevention Training

The SLFF was pleased to provide a $600 grant to the Pasco County Fire Rescue to make possible suicide prevention training for their Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) team members. Mary Van Haute, suicide prevention trainer, will facilitate the training seminar “In Harm’s Way: First Responder Suicide Prevention” at the PCFR training event on November 3, 2018.

A key objective of the SLFF is eliminating suicides among in-service and retired first responders through education, awareness and treatment. September was Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in the US.

Pictured at Right: Ed Benoway, president SLFF, captain Michael Brake, Linda Benoway, mother of Stevie LaDue

Giving Means Results

After much hard work from The Stevie LaDue Firefighters Foundation (SLFF) Board of Directors and an amazing group of volunteers, the SLFF hosted another successful fundraiser in September 2019.  The fundraiser theme was a night of comedy to spread joy and laughter to all those that support our mission of First Responder wellness with suicide prevention being the ultimate goal. The evening featured G. David Howard, Sheena Reagan, and Ward Smith.  A special thank you to Ward Smith for all he does for the foundation!

 Our supporters and donators are truly awesome and provide continued inspiration for our cause.  Because of their gracious monetary donations, the SLFF continues to offer support to the local Fire Departments and individual First Responder families.  With the SLFF fundraising efforts, Pasco County Fire Rescue is able to give every family of a newly hired Firefighter a resource book called, “I Love a Fire Fighter – What the Family Needs to Know.”  Additionally, the SLFF has assisted Pasco County Fire Rescue with funding for tenured First Responders to receive Peer Support training.  Peer Support is a program designed to recognize potential behavioral concerns of other First Responders with the goal of preventative assistance.  The SLFF remains humbled by our donators support and honored to be part of the solution for our local first responders.

Featured on WFLA's Bloom

For National First Responder Day, the Stevie LaDue Firefighters Foundation (SLFF) was invited to appear on WFLA’s Bloom which is a talk show focusing on health and lifestyle.  Because the solutions supporting First Responder wellness are collaborative efforts by many, the SLFF reached out to the local Fire Departments to appear on Bloom in partnership with the SLFF.  The movement behind First Responder wellness is evident in the number of Fire Departments that endorsed sending a representative to appear.  The Bloom host, Crissa Galloway, interviewed the SLFF, St. Pete Fire Rescue, Tampa Fire Rescue, Pasco County Fire Rescue, and Dunedin Fire Rescue about the occupational realities and preventative wellness solutions.

Discovering the Gaps

With a passion to promote the emotional and behavioral health wellness of first responders, the SLFF is engaged in conversations and consultation with firefighters, EMS personnel and law enforcement officers. To obtain a true grasp of those concerns that currently exist for our first responders, we seek their direct input and suggestions. Through such conversations, the SLFF continues to identify the needs and gaps that exist between the present reality and the conditions and support systems desired by first responders.

The issues of cumulative stress and PTSD are complex and often find expression as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, anger issues, familial problems, and isolation. Learning about and evaluating the currently available resources, both local and remote, is critical. With knowledge comes the power to make a difference. Working with first responders and their respective agency personnel, SLFF aims to discover the gaps and figure out how to make improvements.

The SLFF is thankful to the active and retired first responders from departments from several counties and cities who have already sat down and shared their stories and experiences with us. We appreciate the fire chiefs, captains, officers, counselors, chaplains and others who share with us their knowledge, experience and insights. And perhaps most especially, we thank the immediate family members who have shared with us their pain, sorrow and struggles upon the death of first responder loved ones who died by suicide. The stories and experiences of these spouses, children, parents, siblings and other family members provides every motivation for SLFF to do everything possible to save the lives of other first responders. 

Mixing It Up

In the spirit of leveraging diversity, The Stevie LaDue Firefighters Foundation (SLFF) sought out new talent in recruiting Board of Director members.  In order to better support the varying and extremely individual needs of our community’s first responders, the Board of Directors know they must match those specific needs through a variety of skills, education, and experience.  The SLFF is pleased to announce the following individuals have accepted Board of Director positions:


Dr. Joseph Paight:  Psychological Doctorate and Masters from Argosy University; BA in Psychology from University of North Carolina at Wilmington; Counseling private practice with an emphasis on cognitive change; Counselor with Hillsborough County Public Schools since 2004; Forensic evaluation practice for court and Public Defender’s Office.

Donna Farrell: Master of Arts degree in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling from The University of South Florida; National Certification as a Rehabilitation Counselor; Training Manager  with the Florida Department of Education, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation; Served her communities in counseling, business liaison, and leadership roles equating to over 20 years’ experience in the rehabilitation and mental health field.

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