P.O Box 41194 Eugene, OR 97404

The Origin Story

Feb 16, 2024 | Blogs

A few weeks ago, when I was in Las Vegas for SHOT Show. I spent a lot of time during my elevator speech to partners or potential partners reminiscing on the journey that I have been on to get to where we are today. I call it our origin story. I find it fun to think about where I am today and where I still want to go. There were times that I could get emotional about our story, not because I was sad, but out of sheer pride. It’s not often that a person has something that impacts their life in a way and then they turn it into action, with a goal focused on changing the world. This is where I feel that I am currently, in a position to change the world. It is what drives me to continue to move forward on this path. I will never forget that fateful day that truly is the catalyst for everything that I do currently. On March 13th, 2013, I was involved in a violent encounter, where I was unarmed, and my life was saved by my very own firearm. It is a moment in history that changed my life forever.

It was dark and cold Sunday morning when we set the clocks ahead one hour because of daylight savings. My iPhone automatically updated and woke me up early to go to work. As I left the house, I left my gun with my coffee on my kitchen counter as I went to warm up my truck. As I crossed my threshold I remembered distinctly what I thought to myself. “I should have my gun!” I quickly discounted that thought and made my way towards my truck. Once there, I hit the transponder and opened my driver’s side door. As I did, I noticed a pair of white shoes exiting my rear passenger window. There was a criminal inside my truck, and he was diving out the rear passenger window hoping to escape. Fortunately for me, he did not! As he was getting to his feet, I came around the hood of my truck. He pretended like he was a CSI and said, “I saw that your window was broken out and I thought I would check it out for you.” I didn’t fall for it. I immediately swept his legs and did a judo throw. I launched him to the ground and luckily for me I came down on top of him. This was the scary part because I didn’t know if he had a needle, a knife, or anything else sharp that could have stabbed me. I was able to establish a full mount from the top and pin both of his hands to his stomach with my right hand. I was then able to land left hooks on his body, all while yelling for my girlfriend at the time to “get my gun!’ It took nearly 10 minutes of struggling with him on the ground, which seemed like an eternity before she came out with my pistol grip shotgun. The pistol grip allowed her to control the muzzle and call 911 at the same time. At this point, the perp surrendered, and we had complete control of the situation. Not a single round was fired.

It was from that point I became an advocate for our civil liberties. I also became an instructor. The goal was to use my story to educate and empower others. I hoped that I could show others the importance of being armed at all times. Being a new instructor, I was still figuring out my way in the gun industry. Then one night in late 2014, the universe spoke to me. I will never forget where I was. I was working a graveyard shift for a construction company, and we were working on a project in the middle of downtown Eugene. It was about 3 am that morning, and I drove a dump truck through an intersection. I vividly remember a flash of light as I entered the intersection. There was also what seemed like a voice that stated clearly that I had to “protect the kids.” At that moment I wasn’t sure what that meant. I thought, am I hallucinating? Did have too much Red Bull? Was I too tired? So much went through my mind at that moment. I got off work at 6:00 am that morning and went to bed until 8:00 am. I woke up possessed. What did “protect the children mean?” I was a new instructor and looked at kids’ firearm safety. I only found one program put on by the NRA, but I am from Eugene, Oregon. I was concerned about how well it would be perceived.

So, I started to design my own. I started putting my thoughts together via a rough outline. It took me a few months to put together a starting point. It was there that I received input from people close to me. There is a conversation that stood out the most. While speaking with a friend and telling her about what I was trying to accomplish. She made a comment that altered. my path forever. She confided with me that “she didn’t want her daughter to learn how to shoot. She wanted her daughter how to be safe if she ever came across an unsecured firearm.” The light bulb went on inside of my head. In all my excitement to put together a program, I overlooked the most important part of our gun safety classes for children. The accident prevention component. This was a huge moment for me, early in the development. Fortunately, it was still early, and I was able to pivot relatively easily. A few weeks later I had a rough presentation. When I say rough, I mean rough. I was no computer guy, I was not a graphic designer, I was just a man on a mission. I started demanding the “class” for friends and their children. I would demo, get feedback. What worked and what did not work. It was actually fun. What amazed me is how kids were little sponges and soaked up all the information. I learned so much by just talking with young kids. They helped immeasurably with this process and what separates what we do from any other company or organization trying to teach kids gun safety. It truly is for kids, by kids.

In late 2015, I was looking for a venue to use, because I didn’t have any money, to host my very first class open to the general public. I reached out to my friends at Baker’s Boots. They were a locally owned, 3rd generation, family run business. We met and spoke about the particulars. I had planned on contacting the media to see if I could get some coverage. We talked about the pros and the cons. It was so new, no one was doing it, and it was a gamble. They put their trust in my vision, backed me and we held our very first class. The class was full. The media showed up and to my surprise gave us very fair coverage. When the first-class coverage came out, it was published in the local news Facebook group. Even though the first image associated with me was a young man shouldering an AR15. The response was overwhelmingly positive. While the young boy was shouldering the rifle, I wasn’t teaching him how to shoot. I was teaching him about trigger discipline and muzzle control. We no longer do this in our Kids Firearm Safety 1 classes. Phew, I was relieved. Now I was in business. I knew that to get where I wanted to go, that I needed to start a nonprofit. I scraped up the money I needed to apply. I submitted all necessary forms to the IRS and on April 16th, 2016, we received our determination letter from the Federal Government.
We were official!! It felt great and I was excited about what the future may hold. I found myself working 50+ hours a week on my day job and then working for the organization. Classes were going well. I was starting to fine tune the message. As I got more comfortable with my position as the President of the Kids S.A.F.E. Foundation, the doors started to open. In 2017, we were given the opportunity to hold our classes at the Springfield, Cabela’s location. It was here that I was able continue to form the message. It came from a place of caring. It was important early on that we remained apolitical. It was our goal to reach every kid, not just the kids with guns inside their homes. It has been this vision that has helped reach over 28,000 kids now in 5 states!! It has been a tremendous amount of work but has enriched my life and the lives of others. As I write this I get to reflect on the journey and celebrate our accomplishments as an organization. I have a great sense of pride in all the lives that we have saved directly or indirectly. What started with an idea and a message from the universe, turned into action. Then into a tangible program to an official organization. In 2019, I wrote legislation that would authorize our program for all first graders in public schools in Oregon. I received a national award that year from the Second Amendment Foundation. The mission has allowed me to travel all over the country to help save children in the different areas that we have visited. As time continues to pass, we reach more and more children, our organization continues to grow. We are focused on future growth. We are working towards going national with our program. It is our belief that we are in a position to change the face of safety in our country. It all comes down to getting the funding that we need to get where we need to be. I want to thank all the families that have entrusted our organization with the safety of their children. I want to thank all the volunteers, me included, for the many years of service to the public. Lastly, I want to thank all the amazing sponsors who have helped make an impact on the safety of the next generation.

Our program continues to evolve. We have added an adaptive component to the work that we do. We believe that every child deserves the equal opportunity to be able participate in our program. It is our job as an organization to make that a reality. I have learned so much about kids’ gun safety from kids being a part of our gun safety program. Our range program is going strong, and everything is going the way that it was designed to go. Thank you for being a part of our story and following along. We are excited to see what the future holds and where we will go next.

Until next time. Be Safe!!

Here is the link to the video!

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