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Jo Brower of St. Petersburg is living proof that helping others can get you through the most difficult times in life. She has chosen not to be a victim to life circumstances and instead, channels her pain for good. Her brave choice to help others has indeed impacted our community for the better and we are so lucky to have Jo here in Tampa Bay.

Jo raised a son as a single mom, but tragically lost him in a motorcycle accident many years ago. This was only one of the personal losses she would face in life. Jo then reunited with her soul mate, John Stross, and believed life was on the upswing. Then tragically in 2014, John was diagnosed with leukemia and passed away soon after. Anyone would agree that throwing in the towel was understandable after all this tragedy, but Jo found strength in her faith.

She was led to carry on Remember • Honor • Support (RHS), a non-profit dedicated to helping military, first responders, and their families. Jo originally co-founded this mission with John Stross and bravely decided to carry it on throughout all of her adversity. After a trip to MacDill Air Force Base, her interest in the military sparked. She had met some of the Generals who helped her greatly appreciate their mission. Jo and John wanted RHS to be more than a fundraiser so it became a way to bring the community together. Jo has since realized it is a gift to be able to write a check to organizations that help local heroes. RHS allows the community to continue honoring those that give so much to keep our country safe and free. Proceeds continue to support the needs of our warriors and their families.

RHS’s main fundraiser, the Patriot Day Memorial Event on 9/11, has given nearly $500,000 in its five-year history. This year, the three beneficiaries of RHS’s efforts are Gold Shield Foundation, an organization that helps the families of police and first responders killed in action; Stay in Step Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Center; and Warrior2Warrior, a group dedicated to preventing veteran suicide.

Brower understands what it means to lose a child, perhaps this tragedy has helped her inspire others to carry on this mission. The event itself is not about making people sad, it is about reawakening patriotism. We can honor the lives that impacted the safety of our country and lift up the families that lost their loved ones. The Patriots Day Breakfast held on 9/11 brings together a diverse group of community members. It includes our St. Petersburg Mayor; combat wounded veterans, police officers, firefighters, civilians, and civic leaders.

Our very own Alex Harris, co-founder of The Arts Conservatory for Teens (ACT) in St. Petersburg, will sing the National Anthem. The room will be filled with American flags, moving speeches, prayers, and an empty table to honor the memory of fallen heroes that forever leaves a lasting impression. The guest speaker this year will be Vice Admiral Sean A. Pybus (ret.). He is a career Naval Special Warfare SEAL officer with multiple Joint Special Operations duty assignments. He is sure to bring significant reverence to this astute event.

For many Americans, the life-altering events of September 11, 2001 are deeply tucked into our memories. New Yorkers such as myself who lived in NY during this horrific event are forever grateful for women warriors like Jo Brower. Knowing this woman endured her own pain and still continues to selflessly give back to her own community is nothing short of inspiring. I believe people like Jo are unable to be deterred or distracted from what they understand is the reason they are on this planet. Jo Brower is a gem in our community and we hope you all show your patriotism and support RHS for years to come.

Remember • Honor • Support

By: Sharon Fekete

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