Rockin' 4 Relief is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that raises money for families of police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics who were catastrophically injured or killed in the line of duty. Every year, volunteers rock in rocking chairs for up to 10 hours straight outside grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, and retail locations and collect donations from customers who come by. Since 2009, Rockin' 4 Relief has raised more than $270,000 including a $13,000 donation from Oprah Winfrey! See more about our story below:
Rockin' 4 Relief was started in St. Louis, Missouri by Jennifer, who was only 12 years old at the time. Jennifer was exposed to emergency responders through local community events and wanted to give back to those who help us everyday. After brainstorming many fundraising ideas, the rocking chair idea came about. Jennifer rocked at a local gym with the goal of raising $1,000. Even after media coverage and help from friends and family, Jennifer raised $750 and was disappointed she didn't hit her goal.
Jennifer reflected on her first event and knew she wanted to try again. At the gym, people often said they wanted to donate, but didn't have their wallet with them since they were working out. Jennifer switched from a gym to a Dierbergs grocery store location, and nearly tripled the $750 raised in 2009. That's when she realized she might be onto something big.
After Dierbergs saw how Jennifer did during her 2nd Rockin' 4 Relief event, they graciously allowed Jennifer to recruit friends to also rock in rocking chairs at 9 of their locations. More than $9,000 was raised in 2011, giving Rockin' 4 Relief a grand total of $12,000.
Jennifer started being active on social media. She created a Facebook and Twitter account for Rockin' 4 Relief, put together a website, and started inviting celebrities, athletes, news anchors, "famous" emergency responders, and others to see Rockin' 4 Relief's website and learn what it was. At only 15 years old, Jennifer received a response from Oprah Winfrey on Twitter. Not only did she retweet the website, but she matched the $12,000 and added $1,000 to get Rockin' 4 Relief to a cumulative total of $25,000.
On March 13th, 2013, Rockin' 4 Relief experience it's first personal lost. Officer Joe Smith with the Chesterfield Police Department died from a heart attack in the line of duty. Jennifer had known Officer Joe since she was 14 years old. Officer Joe was always willing to go out of his way to educate future police officers about the job. Throughout the last couple years, Officer Joe and his family would come participate in Rockin' 4 Relief without knowing his family would be the beneficiaries so soon. He was a true hero, and is greatly missed.
In 2013, Rockin' 4 Relief also became recognized by the state as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
2014 was a huge year of changes and transitions. At this time, Rockin' 4 Relief was still primarily recruiting high school and college aged students. In August 2014, only two months prior to the next Rockin' 4 Relief event, the Ferguson Riots began and started taking over St. Louis. This put Rockin' 4 Relief in a tough position. Do we risk the safety of our young volunteers to help emergency responders when they need it most? Or do we cancel our event? We kept planning, but postponed our event until it was safe to do so.
In 2014, Jennifer moved to Cape Girardeau for college and in 2015, Rockin' 4 Relief followed her. It required a lot of changes and to look at the event from a broader perspective. But moving Rockin' 4 Relief to Cape Girardeau ended up being a tremendous success! While it took three years to raise more than $10,000 in St. Louis, Cape Girardeau was able to accomplish that goal during year one.
Between 2015-2018, Rockin' 4 Relief was thriving in Cape Girardeau. In 2018, Jennifer followed her dream and became a certified police officer. Unfortunately only four months into her career, Rockin' 4 Relief suffered it's second personal loss, one of Jennifer's childhood mentors. On April 25th, 2018, Retired Fire Chief Jim Silvernail from the Metro West Fire Protection District passed away after a battle with pneumonia and sepsis. Chief Silvernail was widely known in the fire service, both in St. Louis and around the country. He served as a Board Member for Rockin' 4 Relief and had been to every single Rockin' 4 Relief event since our very first event. Chief Silvernail always had the best attitude, he lit up any room he walked into, and he loved seeing young people help the community. Rockin' 4 Relief ended up hosting a Grand Finale in honor of Chief Silvernail that included his wife, kids, grandkids, fire department, and other emergency responders throughout St. Louis. It was a very emotional event for us all.
In 2019, a local law firm in Cape Girardeau reached out to Jennifer saying they wanted to host an annual event for us. They wanted it to include live music, food trucks, and high dollar sponsorships. After working with this amazing team, this event practically doubled our 2019 totals had we only hosted our rock-a-thon event.
On December 1st, 2021, Rockin' 4 Relief experienced it's third loss after Captain Ivan LaGrand of the Cape Girardeau Fire Department passed away after a battle with COVID-19. Captain LaGrand was well known around the community. He was the retired Fire Chief for NBC Fire Protection District, he was an instructor for Cape Girardeau's annual Fire Academy class, and he was a 911 Dispatcher for the Bollinger County Sheriff's Department.
In 2023, Rockin' 4 Relief is alive and well! It's survived Jennifer's switch to the fire and EMS side, her marriage to a firefighter, and the birth of her son. Rockin' 4 Relief now operates with a Leadership Team that divides and conquers the overwhelming amount of planning that needs to be done for such a prestigious event. Rockin' 4 Relief has become well known throughout the community, has become a trusted source for volunteers, locations, donors, and emergency responders.