O’Keefe died by suicide on Sept. 11 after suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He was 47.
News of his death came as a shock to many, including Hancock.
“His personality was so big! And that smile! No one realized how much he really suffered,” Hancock told the Packet.
O’Keefe touched many lives as an RCMP officer, like Hancock’s, who says he went above and beyond the call of duty to help her during his time at the Clarenville detachment over a decade ago.
Hancock was going through a very difficult personal situation and O’Keefe was there for her when she needed it most.
“He did a lot for me. He always checked on me to see how I was doing.”
Tears streamed down her face when she recalled everything O’Keefe and other local RCMP officers did for her.
“I just want people to know they’re more than a uniform, they’re people too,” she said. “When we clock out at the end of the day, we go home, our job is left where it’s to. They can’t do that. We can never imagine what they see … and what they take home.”
Hancock says she also wants to show people all the support these officers give the public outside of their everyday duties.
“They rarely get the respect or credit they deserve … I think the public should stand beside them and support them. And to let people know that they are human and they (often) need someone to talk to as well.”
Coming away from O’Keefe’s funeral, Hancock realized she wanted to do something in honour of O’Keefe, all first responders, and RCMP and RNC officers — she decided to plan a fundraiser.
A five-kilometre charity walk called “A Mile in his Shoes” will raise money for PTSD, mental health and suicide awareness.
“It’s time to stand up and have their backs because they always have ours.”
Hancock plans for the walk to be the first of an annual event to be held on Sept. 11, the day O’Keefe died.
This year’s walk is going ahead on Oct. 11 starting at 10 a.m. from the Kent parking lot and walking to the RCMP detachment building.
If you are interested in participating or donating, call (709) 766-1965, or Facebook message Donna Hancock.
Sponsor sheets are available. All proceeds will be going to mental health and suicide awareness.
You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to sponsor. Receipts can be provided.