CHICAGO — A day after CPD Commander Paul Bauer was laid to rest, he was top of mind for the thousands who packed into the basement of Saint John Fischer School in Beverly for their fourth annual pancake breakfast Sunday.
The fundraiser for the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation’s “Get Behind the Vest Campaign” is expected to break records, with over 3,000 people turning out to show their support for Chicago police officers and help them stay safe on the streets.
"Based on the tragic events in our city, losing Commander Bauer, I think people want to do something,”said Ald. Matt O’Shea (D- 19th Ward) who coordinated the event.
"We have more police officers than any other community, both active and retired. So this is very personal to us. We support the police. We want to help keep them safe," Ald. O'Shea said.
For just $5, folks chowed down on all-you-can-eat pancakes donated by the Original Pancake House. The money raised by the over 10,000 pancakes sold will go towards helping Chicago police officers buy bulletproof vests, a critical piece of equipment that can save their lives.
While the city provides the officer with their initial vest, Frank Gross of the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation said they either expire or wear down after five to seven years of use.
"We think the vest is important. No one ever knows it could be your last day,” Gross said.
No one knows how important those vests are more than officer Alex Lagunas, who said he was shot twice in the chest while serving as a tactical officer in 2016. The bullets never pierced his skin because he was wearing a vest.
"It’s scary thinking about it after that occurred. Thinking about the 'what ifs,'" officer Lagunas said.
His vest was damaged after that encounter, and Lagunas said the foundation helped him buy a new one with the $500 it gives to officers, "which is a huge relief financially for me, and other police officers who received vests," he said.
So far, the foundation says it has helped officers buy more than 8,000 vests since 2015, and made a commitment to purchase 500 every year moving forward. For their part, the pancake breakfasts have raised more than $80,000 toward the effort over the last four years.