By MARY ANN O’TOOLE HOLLEY
There’s a lot of talk about fighting the opioid crisis, but Rick Griffin, a retired organizer with Laborers Local 42 and his wife, Kim, have taken action to make a difference. The Ryan Griffin Memorial Foundation, created from the despair of losing their 20-year-old son Ryan to a heroin overdose 11 years ago, brought the crisis too close to ignore.
Since that life-changing day, April 28, 2007, the Griffins have worked tirelessly to raise enough funds to buy six drug-sniffing K-9 officers for six area police departments: two for Ferguson and one each for Wentzville, University City, Wright City and Hazelwood. The dogs have helped make million-dollar busts that brought in hundreds of pounds of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and more.
The Ryan Griffin Memorial Golf Tournament, held each year near the anniversary of their son’s death, has helped the foundation grow. The Griffin’s say it’s because of generous donors — many who know personally the paid of opioid abuse.
“I was in a restaurant recently, and a man at the bar heard me talking about the dogs, and he asked about the Foundation,” Rick Griffin said. “He said, ‘I want to buy a dog.’ So many people are affected and want to help stop the deaths of so many young people. So that’s how the purchase of K-9 officers grows.”
Kim Griffin says the Foundation was started as a means to keep Ryan’s memory alive. Ryan was a state champion wrestler, and the Griffins initially started the Foundation to provide scholarships to area wrestlers. In addition to purchasing dogs, the Griffins have given more than $75,000 in scholarships to Francis Howell School District wrestlers.
“For many years, I have felt in my heart to do something for drug awareness,” Kim said. “Since 2007, this community and nationwide communities have seen the epidemic of drugs take our children from us too soon.”
Each K-9 donation costs an estimated $15,000 to purchase and train the dog, provide a bullet proof vest for the dog, purchase K-9 Ryan Griffin Memorial Foundation vehicle decals and other expenses.
The Ryan Griffin Memorial Foundation is a 501c3 charity. Donations are tax deductible. Send donations to 173 Black Rock Lane St. Charles, MO 63304.