In September 2009, Michael was given the news that he was in complete remission. While celebrating the good news with his friends, he mentioned that the best thing that he did during the whole ordeal, was take the trip with his daughter. While just a passing thought, the idea behind Michael’s Memories was born. Michael's new passion is to help other firefighters in the same position to "getaway from cancer." He wants to reach out to find other firefighters that have cancer and allow them to take an all-expense paid vacation with their families. It doesn't matter where they go, he just wants them to be with the people that matter the most.
As time passed, Michael worked to refine his idea and come up with a plan on how to accomplish his goal. Michael knew what he wanted to do, but wasn't quite sure of the process. He spoke with many people including other organizational leaders, CPAs, and lawyers in order to make sure he was doing this right. In April 2011, what was once a thought, soon became reality. Michael officially filed the paperwork to create Michael's Memories. With his mission statement in hand, and a few friends to back him up, everything was falling into place. As of May 2011, Michael's Memories is an official organization working to raise money to fulfill our mission. While we still have a ways to go, Michael's Memories is on track to send two families on all-expense paid vacations this year. As time goes on, we hope to increase that number by spreading the word about our organization.
Michael Williams Coppell FD (TX)
Last Alarm March 24, 2019
With the exposures and hazards involved in their profession, the number of firefighters with cancer continues to rise. In April of 2009, a firefighter by the name of Michael Williams was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer. Michael spent several months in and out of the hospital receiving chemotherapy and radiation. While he had the support of friends and family, he could not wait to get out of town and "getaway from cancer." Once the treatment was complete, Michael and his daughter (then 8 years old) packed their things and left town for a week. It didn’t matter where they went, as long as they were together and it wasn’t to a hospital. Michael's intent was to not only to spend time with his daughter outside the hospital, but should things not go well, he knew she would have one last pleasant memory.
To provide fighterfighters with cancer the opportunity to "getaway from cancer" on a vacation with their family. Allowing them to reconnect and escape the stress, trauma, and financial burden that undergoing cancer treatment creates while also involving the community and raising cancer awareness to the public.
Jim Baird, President
I was born and Raised in Dallas, Texas. I am the youngest of five children, graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas and received my bachelor’s degree from Austin College in Sherman, Texas. While attending Austin College I was fortunate enough to play both football and baseball over my four-year pilgrimage. My fire service career started in October of 1997 in Coppell, Texas and I still feel blessed to be a part of the brotherhood 23 years later.
I was Michael’s direct supervisor when he was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. Over the years I was able to watch Michael suffer, struggle, question, love, hate, and most importantly embrace his cancer and learn to rejoice in what he was able to do for other firefighters. I am truly honored to serve on the board of this organization and truly committed to Michaels vision of helping other firefighters, GETAWAY FROM CANCER.
Chris Price, Treasurer
Chris Price was born and raised in Dallas, TX. He graduated from J.J. Pearce High School in 1998 and went on to attend Texas A&M University where he graduated in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Sciences. After graduation, Chris found an interest in the Fire Service. His father had been a police officer for many years and a gentle suggestion turned into a huge passion. The summer after graduation, Chris attended EMT school followed by the fire academy. In 2003 during paramedic school, Chris was hired by the Coppell Fire Department where he continues to work today.
Michael Williams was hired by the Coppell Fire Department in 2005. This is where Chris and Michael met, and their friendship began. Through the extent of Michael’s career, Chris and Michael worked together off and on. When Michael returned from his first “getaway” trip in 2011, Chris was among the first people he called to start building his vision that would become the Michael’s Memories that we know today.
Gayla Caskey, Secretary
Gayla Caskey was a stay at home Mom for 17 years to 4 amazing kiddos who aren't kids anymore! I have an amazing husband and together we own Caskey's Bar & Grill in Denton, Texas. I have a huge passion for helping others through non-profit organizations, in both Board and Advisor positions. That is how I met Michael. We had an event that happens annually for an organization that I helped to co-found called The Denton Mudbug. Michael Williams waited around to talk with me about his Vision of Michaels Memories.
WE IMMEDIATELY BONDED. I thought "he could be my son" and little did I know just how special our bond would become. I was his "YOM" (Your Other Mother), he was my "bonus son," and my children call him "brother." When he asked me to serve on the Board for Michaels Memories I was elated and honored.
I continue to serve with great pride and forever love Michael and his precious daughter Maddie D., always! My life is richer for knowing him and he makes me strive to be a better person daily. Serving on the Board is one way I can achieve that and honor my bonus son Michal Williams.
Kevin Trizna, Board Member
Kevin Trizna is the owner of M4 Roofing & Gutters headquartered in Denver, Colorado. M4 Roofing has operations in Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, and looking to expand further into more states in the next 10 years.
Kevin's wife died from breast cancer in 2013 and was fortunate enough to "Get Away from Cancer" with his 5 children a few months after her death. Kevin understands the powerful impact this trip has on a family and speaks from the heart when he is involved in dealing with firefighters and their families. When Kevin says, "I understand what you are going through.." to a family in need, he has lived it and definitely understands the feelings to the core.
M4 Roofing has been a proud sponsor of Michael's Memories for years and continues to contribute a portion from each job to the excellent cause Michael's Memories represents. As a founding board member, Kevin can't think of a better charity to be involved in. "The board members are an outstanding group of people and get excited about helping people, drawing energy off of Michael's incredible vision. I couldn't be more honored to be a part of this organization."
Adam Settles, Vice President
Adam Settles is the proud owner of Denton Glass Company, based in Downtown Denton, TX. He is happy to consider himself a Denton native and lucky enough to call his favorite hometown girl, his wife. Together, they have settled down in the community they love with their two children and energetic pup.
In his free time, Adam enjoys supporting other local small businesses and causes that are near to his heart. It is with a strong belief in taking care of his neighbors that he pledged to serve as a member of the Michael’s Memories board.
Jeff Oberkrom, Chief Operations Officer
I was born in Kansas City Missouri where I spent the first 14 years of my life before I moved to Denton Texas and graduated from Denton High School. My path then led me through Lubbock at Texas Tech University before accepting a position at Educational Products Inc where I spent 23 years of my career. I worked my way through production, operations, sales, and eventually was named director of sales for the last 4 years before I decided to follow my dreams and start my own company. I started Krom Apparel in 2014 and have never looked back. We currently provide custom apparel to a wide range of customers from schools to large corporations across the country. My relationship with Michael started after he was diagnosed but we quickly became close friends as he loved coming to the shop and working on his next big idea for t-shirts for Michaels Memories. I quickly realized his dream was like no other and I wanted to be a part of it and help in any way I could. I was very moved and inspired by his passion to help others and his selfless actions to help others achieve their dreams. I was very honored when Jim approached me to be on the board of Michaels Memories and quickly accepted his offer. I am proud to be a part of and help carry on Michaels dream. My mission and goal is to work with others to build Michaels dream into something bigger and better than he could have ever imagined…….
Courtney Banatoski, Board Member
Courtney Banatoski is a Denton girl at heart. She graduated from Denton High School and earned degrees in business and economic development from UNT. Courtney has dedicated her life to serving others by working in the non-profit and public sector for the last 20 years. She is proud to bring her expertise to Michael’s Memories in hopes of raising awareness and community support to help fire fighters get away from cancer.
We have all been touched by cancer. Each of us has a family member or friend who has battled this ruthless disease. I don’t believe anyone should be defined by their diagnosis and everyone deserves a break from the battle. I am incredibly honored and excited to serve alongside this board of passionate folks doing amazing work!