McHenry County community rallies around fallen deputy's family

Nearly two weeks after McHenry County Sheriff's deputy Jacob Keltner was shot and killed while serving a warrant in Rockford, there still are signs thanking him throughout McHenry County.

In the weeks since the shooting, McHenry County has in itself become a sort of memorial to Keltner, who lived in Crystal Lake. From the blue and black ribbons that adorn city street lights to the solemn masses that lined the roads for the deputy's funeral procession, the community that Keltner served has tried to give back to his surviving family however it can. Those efforts include an outpouring of financial support, which restaurants, police organizations and a local Cubs fan who's no stranger to helping a neighbor in need, have all provided.

The night before a wanted Springfield man allegedly shot and killed 35-year-old Keltner on March 7 at a Rockford hotel, the sheriff's deputy was teaching his two young sons how to catch and throw in preparation for Little League, his wife, Becki Keltner wrote in an public letter last week.

"There are no words to sum up a man who meant so much to me and to so many others," Becki Keltner said. "My only wish is to have a world where we stop hating each other. I am overwhelmed with the support I have been given from people everywhere these past few days. I see you. You are good just like my husband was. I will keep that in my heart forever."

To many, Keltner was an officer who loved his job and, despite the tragedy it exposed him to, saw the good in people, Becki Keltner wrote.

Those who knew him well, however, know he was much more. Keltner was a "devoted husband," and "amazing father," and a "diehard Cubs fan," she said.

After reading about the Keltners' passion for the Chicago Cubs, Lake in the Hills resident and owner of a Cubs-themed man cave, Stewart McVicar, decided he would host a fundraiser in Keltner's honor.

"I can’t really figure out a better cause than this," McVicar said.

McVicar uses his "man cave," dubbed Club 400, to host charity events about twice a year, he said. He originally intended to distribute the proceeds from his May 2benefit to multiple charities, but, like usual, a more local cause presented itself at the last minute, he said.

"The truth is usually [the causes] just come to me, and this one, obviously, when I saw that letter posted I just thought man, this is something we need to do," McVicar said.

The fundraiser will take place May 2 and is expected to include 2016 World Series MVP Ben Zobrist as its featured guest.

Other guests appearances include Cubs Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins and Cubs' Gary “Sarge” Matthews, Bob Dernier, Ray Burris and Randy Hundley, who will be available for photos and questions.

All proceeds will go to Keltner's family, McVicar said. Anyone who wants to make a donation or auction item at the fundraiser should contact McVicar at 815-385-5463 or stewartmcvicar@yahoo.com. Ticket sales are temporarily closed so people close to the Keltners have an opportunity to buy seats, McVicar said.

Tickets for the general public will be available at 9 a.m. Saturday at https://www.club400cubs.com/events-calendar/. McVicar said donations are also being accepted at https://www.gofundme.com/club400keltnermemorial.

"Club 400" isn't alone in wanting to help the Keltners.

On March 13, local restaurant owner Niko Kanakaris set aside 10 percent of all sales at his businesses throughout the county to donate to the Keltner family, manager of the Pingree Grove Niko's Tavern Jessica Polizzi said.

"We actually had a great response to it," Polizzi said. "It being not our busy summer season, that Wednesday was actually really busy for all of us."

Niko's raised $2,000 to donate to the Keltners. One regular customer even donated $100 on top of his bill, Polizzi said.

"Everybody in the community has been backing him so much," Polizzi said. "... It’s really nice for everybody to come together as a community and really help."

Law-enforcement-owned company, Barbells and Badges has pitched in, too. The organization, which sells T-shirts to raise money for the families of fallen officers, created a shirt in Keltner's memory.

"Barbells And Badges Honor A Hero Project is working directly with Lieutenant Tadelman from McHenry County Sheriff’s Office and Deputy Deuchler from Kane County Sheriffs Office to raise money to be donated to Deputy Keltner’s family," according to the company's website.

Shirts are available online at Barbellsandbadges.com.

Money donations to the Keltner family can also be sent to Crystal Lake Bank and Trust, 5100 Northwest Highway, Crystal Lake, 60014, McHenry County Sheriff's Deputy Sandra Rogers said. Donations should be made payable to Rebecca Keltner.

The 100 Club of Chicago also has adopted McHenry County into its mission to provide benefits to the deputy's family. The nonprofit has vowed to donate $50,000 in first response aid and educational assistance for the deputy’s two children, CEO Joe Ahern said.

Money donations alone haven't illustrated the community's support throughout the previous two weeks. Smaller gestures – signs that read "Thank you for everything Deputy Jacob Keltner" – remain outside local restaurants, schools and motels. Waiters at a Rockford Texas Roadhouse kept a table set for Keltner until he was lain to rest, and the deputies he served with strive to uphold a promise that was made in Keltner's final call on the day of his funeral.

"Rest in peace, brother," an officer said over a police radio on March 13. "We will take it from here."

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