Hundreds of people gathered outside the Heroes of Public Safety Memorial in Crown Hill Cemetery in mid-September. Among the crowd stood groups of first responders in uniform, students, families with small children, and other community members. They were there for the annual Beyond the Badge 5k Run/Walk, an event honoring public servants who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
The cause is personal for the event’s organizers, Jerry and Sharon Baker. Their son, Jason, was murdered in 2001 while on duty as a Marion County Sheriff’s deputy. Now, the Bakers not only work to ensure sacrifices like Jason’s are not forgotten; they also use the event to help those who want to follow in Jason’s footsteps.
Each year, the Beyond the Badge event raises money for the Jason Baker Legacy Scholarship, which provides financial support to O’Neill students pursuing a career in public safety. Since the first Beyond the Badge event in 2002, the scholarship has helped nearly two dozen students become first responders. Each of those students has fulfilled one special request from the Bakers.
“There are a lot of scholarship opportunities at IUPUI,” Jerry Baker said. “People receive them, but they don’t really know the history about them. One of the things I ask students to do is that those who are interested in the scholarship do a little research and write a paragraph about Jason or the circumstances of the event.”
That includes the most recent recipients, Alexander Clausius, Ingrid Ortega, and Reece Thompson—all public safety majors at O’Neill IUPUI.
“After reading about who he was, I knew I wanted to be like him,” Ortega said. “I want to serve and protect my community and those around me.”
Clausius said he was both inspired by Jason’s story and humbled to receive the support.
“I work every day to dedicate myself to my community, to service, and to this great country,” he says. “When I discuss this scholarship, I do more than just explain that I received money for a good cause. I explain the story behind the scholarship. I explain who my scholarship is in memory of. I explain why receiving this scholarship means more to me than the gift. I explain how I am living the legacy of Jason.”
Keeping Jason’s legacy and memory alive is a common thread that runs throughout the three recipients. Thompson and Ortega both know that adding their names to the list of those selected for the scholarship means they have a responsibility beyond earning a degree.
“I consider this an investment rather than a donation since I hope to serve the community with my best intentions while strengthening Jason Baker’s legacy,” Thompson said. “Although the financial aspect of the scholarship is important to me, the awareness of his legacy and those of other fallen police officers is something I will carry throughout my life and career.”
“I will work hard to be someone like Jason,” Ortega added. “This scholarship has already been a great blessing for my life, and I know it will continue to be for many other recipients in the future as well.”
The deadline to apply for the Jason Baker Legacy Scholarship is March 1. To apply, students must be pursuing a degree in public safety and entering their sophomore year. To donate to the scholarship fund or to learn more about the upcoming Beyond the Badge event on September 20, 2020, visit heroesofpublicsafety.org.