ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO - Contestants for the 32nd Annual Guns 'N Hoses weighed in Tuesday night (Nov. 20) ahead of the sold-out event Wednesday (Nov. 21) at the Enterprise Center in downtown St. Louis. The countdown is on until they step in the ring and battle it out to support BackStoppers and the families of fallen first responders.
For some of the fighters, it is all about bragging rights. For others, the motivation hits closer to home.
St. Louis County Police Officer David Weinhold will step into the ring because he knows firsthand the difference BackStoppers makes. Weinhold's father, Sgt. Richard Weinhold, who was also a county officer, was killed in the line of duty Oct. 31, 2000, leaving behind a wife and four children.
He says without the support he and his family have received from BackStoppers, he "wouldn't be here today."
Professional mixed martial arts fighter Daniel O’Connor has many relatives who are or have been police officers, including Arnold Police Officer Ryan O'Connor who was shot in the head while transporting a burglary suspect last year and has gone through extensive rehabilitation since.
O'Connor said he was amazed by the outpouring of support his family received from BackStoppers and the greater St. Louis community following the shooting that almost took his cousin's life.
"Everybody came and supported him," he said. "I mean, it unfroze my cold heart."
O'Connor will retire from fighting after this year's Guns 'N Hoses. He said he is glad Ryan will be in the crowd to cheer him on.
"I couldn't write a book and end it better than this," said O'Connor.
The goal this year is to raise at least $701,000. Executive Director of BackStoppers, Ron Battelle, said that is nearly half of the organization's annual budget. The money will help the organization cover health insurance for families of the fallen, education for the children, housing, repairs, and anything else the families need.
"That's what families do," said Battelle. "You step up and support the family members that need it, and that's what BackStoppers and Guns 'N Hoses is all about."
Tuesday nights weigh in at Helen Fitzgerald's in Sunset Hills began with a moment of silence to honor Auxiliary Officer Ricardo Davis of the Washington Park Police Department who died in the line of duty last month. BackStoppers is now assisting Davis' family, including six children.