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Foundation hopes horses spur donations to help fallen, injured cops

Abbey Salch project manager Agency 360 stands near an unpainted horse one about 100 thwill represent Chicago Police officers killed

Abbey Salch, project manager at Agency 360, stands near an unpainted horse, one of about 100 that will represent Chicago Police officers killed or injured in the line of duty. The horses will be painted with unique designs chosen by businesses that sign up to sponsor a horse, at prices beginning at $2,500. | Provided photo

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Flanked by two life-size fiberglass horses and hoping to help raise money for the families of slain and catastrophically injured police officers, Denise Domagala told her story Tuesday afternoon at Chicago Police Headquarters.

After her husband, Chicago Police Officer Bernie Domagala, was shot in the head 26 years ago during a hostage situation on the South Side, she didn’t know what to do.

“I used to say to the department, ‘Give me a book because I don’t know what happens now. We didn’t have police in the family, like a lot of officers do,” she said. “I said, ‘Give me a book of rules, where do we go, do we have insurance?’ . . . I didn’t know anything. There was no book, no protocol.”

She struggled to support her husband, who needed to stay in an assisted living facility, and her three young sons.

“We went for 16 years or so with no assistance or no help or people calling, so we kind of felt like we were out there floundering,” she said. “And then when the Police Memorial Foundation came together and called us in 2006 and said ‘We can help you. How’s Bernie and the boys,’ it was unbelievable.”

Domagala is cared for at a North Side facility.

The foundation, which financially aids families of police officers who were slain or catastrophically injured on the job, helped pay for her twin sons to attend college and business school.

Domagala shared her tale as the foundation kicked off a major fundraising effort featuring horses.

Fifty life-size fiberglass horses will be placed on downtown sidewalks along Michigan Avenue beginning Sept. 11.

Each horse will be sponsored by a company and be named after a police officer who was slain or catastrophically injured. One horse, named Sacrifice, will have the names of six catastrophically injured officers painted on its bridle. Sponsorship fees start at $2,500. The horses will be painted different colors. They will be removed from the street in November and auctioned off.

Horses are still available for sponsorship. Some will be placed near Navy Pier and other downtown spots.

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy heaped praise on the program and admired the artistry that went into making the horses. He said that despite being more into sports when he was kid, he once tried painting.

“Here’s a little-known Garry McCarthy fact: I actually used to sketch and paint animals and seascapes at one time,” McCarthy said.

Former Police Supt. Phil Cline, executive director of the foundation, joked that McCarthy used crayons.


Twitter: @MitchDudek

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