Carbondale gets on the good foot for police officer
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE – It only took seven weeks on the job with the Carbondale Police Department for Drake Rooks to find out what a caring and compassionate community he’d chosen for a new home.
On Aug. 22, while still living in Fruita, he went to run an errand on his motorcycle when a car veered into his lane and collided with him, severely injuring his left foot.
After five surgeries at a Denver hospital to try to save his foot, Rooks was faced with a hard choice – keep the foot and hope efforts to clear an infection that could have killed him were successful, or have it amputated.
He chose the amputation, and a lifetime with a prosthetic foot.
But then the 43-year-old, 14-year veteran police officer faced another dilemma.
The accident happened just eight days before his insurance with the town of Carbondale would have kicked in, his former insurance was already maxed out, and the motorist who was at fault for the accident had nothing to go after.
“Let’s just say it was a really bad time for that to happen,” said Rooks, who went ahead and moved to Carbondale with his wife, Mandy, who is a registered nurse. They have a young son, Shay.
Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling said he initially assumed Rooks wouldn’t be coming back to join the police force after the accident.
“But when we heard he was committed to joining the team and had already moved here, we decided to do what we could to help make that happen,” Schilling said. “Carbondale has always been a giving community, and we would like to help with any medical bills he may have or will continue to have.”
Schilling, his wife Stephanie and others are organizing a “Help Drake Get Back on His Feet” benefit on Saturday, Oct. 30. The event will include a Halloween-themed bike cruise or walk to and from the Carbondale Fire Department Headquarters at 11 a.m., followed by a spaghetti lunch, auction and live music at the firehouse from noon to 2 p.m.
Rooks is getting used to a new prosthetic, but would like to eventually upgrade to a state-of-the-art, computerized prosthetic that will allow him to perform his job as a police patrol officer. The benefit is intended to put the financing in place to make that happen, Schilling said.
“Just in the short time he’s been here I’ve seen that he’ll make a great police officer and be a part of the community,” he said. “He’s shown that he really wants to stay here and give back to the community, and I think he’ll be a real asset to the department.”
Rooks hopes to be back on the job in a limited capacity by the end of November, but will be on light duty until he’s ready for full duty, Schilling said.
“We feel like the luckiest people in the world,” Rooks said of he and his family. “We’ve already met a lot of people, and it’s a good department to be a part of. We didn’t have any idea what a giving community this is, and I really think it’s a place I can stay until I retire.
“Obviously, the foot hasn’t been a good experience, but everything else we’ve experienced here has been incredible,” he said.
A $20 donation for the Oct. 30 benefit will include the bike cruise, lunch and entertainment. Otherwise, tickets for the lunch only are $10 (children free).
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