Fundraisers help Paul Meyer get his family home again

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Mary and Paul Meyer with Woodburn Police Chief Scott Russell and his wife, Cami.  Meyer was presented a $4,300 check to defray costs of making his home wheelchair accessible.Paul Meyer estimates that in the past five months, he and his wife have handwritten hundreds of thank-you cards. In the past two weeks, the list of generous supporters has grown as the 20-year veteran of the Portland Police Bureau was presented with nearly $40,000 in donations.

In the past five months, Meyer has also had to learn to navigate life from a wheelchair. He has had to move his family from their home in Tualatin to a more spacious, accessible rental. And he has had to come to terms with the tree-falling accident that paralyzed him during an emergency training session last November.

Still, he describes April 13 as one of the best nights of his life: A gala at the Portland Hilton Hotel hosted about 300 guests and brought in “just over $35,000,” confirmed Karen Schmitt of the Deer Creek Elementary Parent/School Organization Foundation who tracked and processed ticket sales and donations.

Among the guests, Meyer counted far-flung cousins, his wife’s sorority sisters who flew in from Arizona, a breast cancer survivor and friend who flew in from Indiana — all mixing with his colleagues from the Portland Police Bureau’s Special Emergency Reaction Team, where he served as a sniper.

Shortly after, Meyer was likewise blown away when the Woodburn Police Department chose to support him during its yearly fundraiser, which earned $4,300 for the Meyer family.

Woodburn Police Det. Rick Puente recalled the support his department had received from the Portland Police Bureau after the 2004 bombing at West Coast Bank that killed Woodburn Police Captain Tom Tennant and Oregon State Police Trooper William Hakim.

Woodburn Police Chief Scott Russell lost a leg in the explosion, and has served as something of an inspiration since, Meyer said, especially in light of the 39 surgeries he has undergone.

“With everything that this agency’s been through, they pick me to donate to?” Meyer said in disbelief. “It was unbelievable that the agency did that. “

Donations will defray the considerable expense of retrofitting the Meyers’ Tualatin home to make it wheelchair-accessible. Although the Meyers do not yet have a solid estimate, the costs associated with installing a ground-floor master bedroom and bathroom, adding an elevator and remodeling the kitchen, as well as widening the garage, could easily reach $300,000.

But it is the only home his two sons Matthew, 7, and Russell, 11, have ever known — and it is a block and a half from Hazelbrook Middle School, which Russell will attend next fall.

It has been a busy couple of weeks for Meyer, who on April 16 honored 11 colleagues who were with him on Hayden Island the day of his life-altering accident.

“I was able to tell them each what they did to save my life,” Meyer explained. “I don’t know how many people get that kind of opportunity.”

Meyer wants his supporters to know their generosity and good will is not lost on him.

“The thing I’ve been talking about since this has happened, once this came up, all this support and everything else — is to pay it forward.”

In the meantime, he wants everyone who donates to know that each donation far surpasses its dollar amount.

“It’s going to allow us to get into a home that we can live in forever — that’s what it’s going to do,” Meyer said.

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