Advancing Heroes Fund
Est. 2022 as a donor advised fund by the family of Jeffrey J. Vrlik, in his memory.
Jeffrey John Vrlik loved many things. He loved and adored his wife, Kathie, and his three children, Kellen, Aidan and Kyla. He loved life and lived it to the fullest, traveling the world, becoming a skilled potter, and earning the respect of the medical community as a nurse.
The Advancing Heroes Fund at the Valley Community Foundation (VCF) was established after Jeff died suddenly in 2022 at age 54. His passing devastated his family and friends.
The donor advised fund is dedicated to furthering the education of Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) in the Valley community and support the educational growth of emergency medical personnel, including advanced training from EMT to paramedic, or even to pursue a degree in nursing.
Kathie said Jeff was passionate about taking care of others. He was a beloved nurse at Griffin Hospital’s ICU and in the Emergency Department of the VA Hospital in West Haven. But for Jeff, nursing was a calling not just a career and answering that call was a financial challenge.
“Often, the care an EMT provides is the difference between life and death,” Kathie said. “EMTs need to know anatomy and physiology. They need to be able to perform field diagnosis and be able to evaluate an injury or illness and stabilize a patient and do their best to keep them alive.”
The Advancing Heroes Fund is the first at VCF to include educational support for EMTs. Most towns have volunteer EMTs and those who are paid make little more than minimum wage making it nearly impossible for them to afford the costly training to become paramedics or nurses.
“Our most skilled and experienced EMTs leave the job, in too many cases, before they reach 5 years of service,” Kathie said. “It’s our hope that we can encourage skilled EMTs to become paramedics and keep experienced professionals serving our community by providing a career path.”
Along with his world-class nursing skills, his friends and family say Jeff had an amazing bedside manner, with an extraordinary ability to lift the spirits of patients and colleagues.
“When Jeff became a nurse, his hands were blessed, and he spent every day from that moment extending that blessing to others,” Kathie said. “He was bright, strong, multi-faceted, precious, and beautiful. We all miss his laugh, his smile, his hugs, his kindness, his patience, and his wisdom.”
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