Becki Keltner never planned on becoming a single mother. But after her husband, McHenry County sheriff’s deputy Jacob “Jake” Keltner was shot and killed on the job, she was determined to remind their two young sons of the good that exists in the world.
“I want them to know that there are still good people out there,” Becki Keltner said. “There are lots of ways to help people. I want them to grow up and think of something they can do of service to others and just to carry on Jake’s legacy, and just to be a good person.”
As a way of keeping her husband’s spirit alive, Becki Keltner partnered with American Red Cross and Concerns of Police Survivors to host a National Blue Blood Drive in Jake Keltner’s name. The 35-year-old McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy and special agent of the U.S. Marshals Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force was shot and killed earlier this year while serving an arrest warrant on a fugitive at a Rockford hotel.
“Obviously, something horrible happened in my family and it’s been a really hard time, but I’ve had awesome community support,” Becki Keltner said. “People have done so much to help me and I feel like I don’t want it just to be bad. I wanted something good to come out of the bad.”
The blood drive will take place from 1 to 6 p.m. Jan. 9 – National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day – at the D’Andrea Banquets, 4419 Northwest Highway, Crystal Lake. The banquet hall, which offered its space for free, is also where the Keltner’s had their wedding reception, she said.
Becki Keltner hopes to have at least 200 people in attendance throughout the course of the day. Donors who pre-register online at www.redcrossblood.org using the sponsor code “Keltner” will receive a free T-shirt. They also can check in on the Jake Keltner Memorial Blue Blood Drive Facebook page, where 91 people had RSVPd to the blood drive as of Friday evening.
An additional 240 people indicated they were interested in attending.
“It would be a huge help to me to support the blood drive,” Becki Keltner said. “A lot of people have been asking me what I want for Christmas and stuff and I don’t really want any gifts. I just want to be able to give back in some way.”
According to the American Red Cross, one blood donation is enough to save as many as three lives. Blood types O, A- and B- and in the highest demand, particularly in January, when the Red Cross is most in need of donations, Becki Keltner said.
While Jake Keltner was in the hospital, he received several units of blood in an attempt to save his life. The transfusions prevented the deputy from donating his organs, but allowed him to give tissue and heart valves and bone, Becki Keltner said. A blood donation in Jake Keltner’s memory, his wife said, is a way of allowing him to continue to give back.
Jake Keltner’s death rattled the community, which was quick to step in with outpouring support for the fallen deputy’s family, Becki Keltner said. Nine months after Jake Keltner’s death, boxes of donated Teddy Bears and toys still arrive at the Keltner’s doorstep every so often.
“It’s really sweet and I think it makes the kids feel good,” Becki Keltner said. “They know Daddy was a hero and people are thinking of us.”