Fundraiser for Wagner Largest in history: $104,390
When the final net total was determined it proved to be $104,390.26!
In a special presentation ceremony at the Union’s general membership meeting on Feb. 7, ATO and coordinators of the special event presented Stacey Wagner and the two Wagner children, aged 7 and 13, with a check for that amount.
Officer Mikey LaReau topped off his account of the details of the record-setting story by explaining that there were so many donations that the actual expenses came to less than $800, an extremely low overhead for such an elaborate effort that included barbecue dinners and a live auction of sports memorabilia and other great gifts.
“Everybody put their talents together and I think that’s what made it so unbelievable. The two HPD officers, Sgt. Matt Williams and Officer Mikey LaReau, really worked their tails off,” said Allen Helfman, who contributed dozens of the auctioned items.
It was Helfman’s 50th auction benefitting Houston area law enforcement officers, the vast majority of them being from HPD. “We had more items than ever before,” he said. “Of course, there were seven-year-old and 13-year-old kids involved.”
Last summer, Wagner, his wife Stacey, daughter Taylor and son Hans III were broadsided by a vehicle. Wagner suffered a severe concussion but Stacey and the children were not seriously injured.
Wagner missed work and – as his friend Sgt. Williams put it – “He went back as early as he could. He realized that he went back too early. He suffered from headaches. He went back to the doctors and was off another week and a half.
“He seemed to be doing better and came back quickly. On Friday, September 14th, he was home with his family watching a movie in the master bedroom. They all fell asleep there.”
Later, Stacey and the kids left Wagner to sleep by himself. When Stacey checked on him later that morning, she found that he wasn’t breathing. She administered CPR and an ambulance was called.
When the paramedics arrived, they found that Hans was deceased.
By the first of the year Williams and LaReau were spearheading the unprecedented fundraising effort. KTRH Radio talk show host Michael Berry, the former city councilman and long-time friend of Houston police officers, kicked in $5,000 of his own money and gave the Wagner story prominent mention on the air.
Another great HPD/HPOU friend, attorney John Eddie Williams, contributed $10,000 to go with yet another $5,000 from Collectors Firearms after they heard the story on KTRH.
Helfman, owner of River Oaks Chrysler Jeep, acquired numerous autographed sports memorabilia items, hitting up his greatest sources for more signed baseballs and related prizes than ever before.
Williams said he and LaReau proceeded to “hit up everyone. We sold barbecue tickets and got people to help with the logistics. If you bought 10 barbecue plates, our delivery drivers would deliver them to you.”
Williams pointed out that the trip to BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse in Pearland resulted in a very generous donation. He and LaReau visited with BJ’s Eric Westerlage and his general manager Mike Eller and showed them a flyer that had pictures of Wagner in both his HPD uniform and his Marine Corps uniform.
“Mike was a former Marine and he stated that he would make some phone calls and get back to us in about 20 minutes,” Williams said. “Twenty minutes later Westerlage called to say that BJ’s would provide the brisket and two sides. All we needed to do was get them a number of approximate people that we were planning on attending.”
As a result, BJ’s donated “over 90 briskets, which was all the food we needed,” Williams said, “and amounted to several thousand dollars’ worth.”
When Michael Berry got the word, he immediately went to the KTRH airwaves and advised his many listeners, how to help.
“He reached out to so many people,” Williams recounted. “After he went out over the air, Mike’s cell phone didn’t stop ringing for an hour. People would ask, ‘How can I help?’
“So many great things happened that I can’t remember them all.”
If truth be told, Wagner was a “star” on the TV show COPS, a documentary/reality legal series that follows officers during patrols and other police activities. Wagner’s work with the COPS crew made him a popular figure with them.
Williams’ wife wrote Langley Productions, who produces COPS, a letter by hand and explained the incident, in hopes that they would somehow involve themselves with the benefit. The show’s producer stunned us when we received a $1,000 check to benefit the fundraiser. “That was real cool on their part,” Williams said. “We didn’t expect to really receive much from them.”
It was just one more example of the good guys pitching in to help.
A hamburger business, Hub Cap Grill, stored the food donated by BJ’s and a rib joint, Baker’s Ribs, offered to cook it at no charge. They did so and worked with Bobby Kessler, the frequent go-to cook for ATO and HPOU. Kessler supervised the servings while Westerlage managed the long serving line – which never slowed down.
“We received so many great items from so many companies that we had to tell businesses that we couldn’t take any more auction items the day of the benefit.
“So many wonderful companies helped us out. Tactical Firearms and Hi-Standard Firearms assisted us with AR-15s and companies that we never expected to receive items called. Companies such as Coach and Vera Bradley even donated purses.
“However, One of the most important companies we worked with was COPSTOP in Pearland. The owner, Rick Fernandez, a former Pearland police officer, donated a hand gun for us to auction off. He and his employees also worked tirelessly in selling raffle tickets. They even sold the paper cardboard roll the tickets came on.
“We were also amazed when Tracy and Beth, the owners of Nothing Bundt Cakes, volunteered to provide hundreds of bundtini’s for the fundraiser.”
Williams, a sergeant out of Southeast Patrol, once worked with Wagner in a tact unit and has remained a good friend over the years. When Wagner worked in Narcotics, LaReau worked closely with him in the arrests of drug dealers.
Commenting on the Wagner success story, Williams said, “Hans would have done the same for us. There wasn’t a birthday he missed that there wasn’t a cookie cake in the office.
“He was one of those guys who remembered when the special days were. He also was constantly playing practical jokes, which always got a laugh, but also kept you on your toes.
“We can’t thank everyone enough who pitched in and brought in auction items or sold tickets,” Williams said. “This event was so successful because of a collaborative effort of so many who ultimately assisted us in paying tribute to a great police officer and man!”