AUSTIN (KXAN) — Today marks two years since Travis County Deputy Jessica Hollis was swept away by flood waters in her patrol car.
Dozens of women spent time remembering her service along with STAR Flight nurse, Kristin McLain, who was also killed doing her job. McLain died in April of 2015 during a helicopter rescue.
An event McLain started with a friend before the accident, Get Out Girl Paddle Jam, is still going strong and helping first responders.
Around 160 women took took part in the third annual even now called the Kristin McLain Get Out Girl Paddle Jam. The STAR Flight nurse loved spending time on the water, and stand up paddle boarding was how McLain would decompress after a stressful night of saving lives.
“The beginning of the paddle jam is very emotional for all of us especially since I was a friend of Kristin’s,” said Marlynn Kempema who is also an emergency room nurse UMC Brackenridge Hospital.
She is referring to STAR Flight helicopter flyover that gets the morning started ,and then the magic begins.
“We need balance in our life and being on the water watching the sun go up and being in a place where we can rejuvenate and not be in a high stress [environment],” said Kempema. “It wasn’t competitive out there. Women can be competitive. We’re just out there to have fun, paddle and enjoy one another’s company and talk.”
They are also paddling to raise money for Foundation 1023, which was McLain’s badge number. The non-profit was created because Kristin’s colleagues had trouble dealing with her death.
“It’s hard for the helpers to go get help,” said Winston Merrill, McLain’s husband. “All they do is help people, that’s all they know how to do and to go get help — sometimes people consider that weakness.
Foundation 1023 improves access to mental health services for first responders through efforts such as giving funding to departments to cover the cost.
It is support John Loughran needed after Travis County Deputy Jessica Hollis was swept away by flood waters.
“I was going to be the next diver to go in the water when she was found,” said Loughran who was her former sergeant, and did dive operations with Hollis. “II called everyone individually and said we found her. It was the hardest three words I’ve probably ever said to anybody.”
Reaching out for help to navigate the pain and emotions was not a sign of weakness, but one of strength.
“After Jessica died it wore on me without a doubt, and you know I’ve had ups and downs and I was down, but now I’m back up,” said Loughran.
Before her death, McLain was also involved with the Flatwater Foundation. They are dedicated to providing those diagnosed with cancer, their families and loved ones access to mental health therapy and family support. They were on hand Sunday to raise awareness about the importance of reaching out for help.