Fam­ily of EMT killed at Oceano Dunes in 2009 host­ing a me­mo­rial gala

The Tribune (SLO) - - Front Page - BY KAYTLYN LES­LIE [email protected]­bune­news.com

Sun­day, May 24, 2009, was a busy day at the Oceano Dunes State Ve­hic­u­lar Recre­ation Area.

Jovial revel­ers packed the state park near Pismo Beach dur­ing the crowded Me­mo­rial Day week­end, and in­juries were com­mon as the hun­dreds of vis­i­tors rode through­out the sandy dunes on ATVs.

In their midst was 24-yearold Christo­pher Mead­ows, a vol­un­teer EMT with the San Luis Obispo County Sher­iff’s Of­fice’s Search and Res­cue team.

On that busy day, look­ing down the bar­rel of a long Cen­tral Coast sum­mer, Mead­ows didn’t know what would hap­pen next.

He didn’t know that a fa­tal ac­ci­dent would spur his fam­ily to de­vote their lives to sup­port­ing a new crop of emer­gency re­spon­ders in his mem­ory.

“It’s a night­mare to lose a child,” Chris’s fa­ther, Tim Mead­ows, told The Tri­bune via phone on May 3, a few weeks be­fore the 10th an­niver­sary of his son’s death. “The big­gest fear after that hap­pens is that the child will be for­got­ten be­cause they aren’t there any longer.”

Thanks to his fam­ily’s ef­forts, Chris hasn’t been for­got­ten, though.

Chris Mead­ows’ name ap­pears on a sign mark­ing a stretch of High­way 101 be­tween Madonna Road and San Luis Bay Drive, and a Study Abroad schol­ar­ship and a me­mo­rial bench at Cal Poly. His name also graces two Sher­iff’s Of­fice ve­hi­cles — a Lake Nacimiento pa­trol boat and a search-an­dres­cue Humvee — and an an­nual award from the San Luis

THE BIG­GEST FEAR ... IS THAT THE CHILD WILL BE FOR­GOT­TEN.

Tim Mead­ows, Chris’s fa­ther

Obispo County Sher­iff’s Of­fice’s Search and Res­cue team.

But most im­por­tantly, it ap­pears on a schol­ar­ship fund that has to date given out more than $110,000 to stu­dents pur­su­ing emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices ca­reers like Chris.

“We couldn’t have con­ceived of it in our wildest dreams,” Tim Mead­ows said of the ef­forts to keep Chris’ mem­ory alive. “We didn’t re­al­ize what staying power Chris’s legacy would have.”

OUT OF TRAGEDY, A PUR­POSE

Chris Mead­ows, a 2007 Cal Poly grad­u­ate and Cuesta Col­lege-cer­ti­fied EMT, was work­ing that fate­ful May 2009 day, his fa­ther said.

He’d al­ready been on duty the pre­vi­ous day, but the grow­ing crowds were keeping strapped emer­gency re­spon­ders run­ning through­out the large park, re­spond­ing to calls for in­juries.

Chris vol­un­teered for a Sun­day shift to help out.

He was killed later that day when his ATV crested a hill on the way to a call for a bro­ken leg. As Chris went over the dune, one he had gone over many times the day be­fore, his ATV rolled.

An am­bu­lance fol­low­ing closely be­hind hit the ATV, while Chris was trapped be­neath it.

A Sher­iff’s Of­fice au­topsy con­cluded that Chris was killed im­me­di­ately when his ATV rolled. He likely did not feel the sec­ond hit of the am­bu­lance.

Learn­ing of their son’s death was un­der­stand­ably trau­matic for Tim Mead­ows and his wife, Mardy Mead­ows — he de­scribed it as a “par­ent’s worst night­mare” — but while writ­ing Chris’ obit­u­ary, an idea came to them.

“A co-worker of his said, ‘Why don’t you cre­ate a schol­ar­ship fund?’ ” Mead­ows re­called. “In the fog of that dark time, we were like, ‘OK.’ ”

The Christo­pher Mead­ows Me­mo­rial EMS Ed­u­ca­tion Fund has to date given out $110,000 worth of schol­ar­ships to 51 Cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia stu­dents pur­su­ing EMS ca­reers.

The money for the schol­ar­ship is raised partly from donors in the Bay Area, where the Mead­ows fam­ily lives, Tim Mead­ows said, but mostly from San Luis Obispo County.

“It’s been pos­si­ble be­cause of the in­cred­i­ble gen­eros­ity of par­tic­u­larly the SLO County com­mu­nity that Chris was a part of,” Mead­ows said. “The Bay Area doesn’t have the same com­mu­nity spirit that you have in San Luis Obispo.”

THREE SCHOL­AR­SHIPS

The Christo­pher Mead­ows Me­mo­rial EMS Ed­u­ca­tion Fund offers three classes of schol­ar­ships, Tim Mead­ows said.

First is a $750 schol­ar­ship to pay for the costs of seek­ing EMT cre­den­tials.

Mead­ows said Chris ini­tially went to Cal Poly to study busi­ness, but part­way through re­al­ized that he “wanted to pur­sue some­thing to help other peo­ple.”

So Chris en­rolled in Cuesta Col­lege’s EMT cre­den­tial pro­gram. He re­ceived his cre­den­tial in 2006, Mead­ows said, and soon after be­gan work­ing with San Luis Am­bu­lance.

The sec­ond class of schol­ar­ship is a $3,000 schol­ar­ship for peo­ple pur­su­ing ca­reers as paramedics. Ac­cord­ing to Mead­ows, after re­ceiv­ing the keys to Chris’s car after his ac­ci­dent on the Dunes, he and his wife found two un­mailed ap­pli­ca­tions to para­medic pro­grams in the car along with Chris’ other ef­fects.

The third, and new­est, class is a $3,000 “ad­vanced” schol­ar­ship to peo­ple work­ing as EMTs or paramedics who want to ad­vance their ca­reers in the med­i­cal field.

One of the first re­cip­i­ents of this was San Luis Obispo para­medic Hi­lary Wolf, a close friend of Chris’s.

“Christo­pher and I were ac­tu­ally hired by San Luis Am­bu­lance as new EMTs to­gether nearly 13 years ago,” Wolf wrote in an email to The Tri­bune on Thurs­day. “Be­ing a part of the San Luis Am­bu­lance fam­ily, I was friends with Christo­pher and aware of the schol­ar­ship soon after its cre­ation.”

Wolf was an EMT un­til 2009, when she be­came a para­medic. She’s worked as a para­medic since that time, but with the help of the schol­ar­ship is cur­rently fin­ish­ing nurs­ing school.

She’s ex­pected to grad­u­ate from the Cuesta Col­lege nurs­ing pro­gram and be­come a reg­is­tered nurse on May 24 — ex­actly 10 years to the day after Chris’s death.

When asked what she would like to say to the Mead­ows fam­ily, Wolf wrote: “Thank you for al­low­ing me to carry Christo­pher’s legacy on. I am truly hon­ored to have re­ceived the schol­ar­ship in his mem­ory, and will serve his mem­ory proudly as I work as a nurse.”

A ME­MO­RIAL GALA

The schol­ar­ship fund isn’t the only way the Mead­ows fam­ily is keeping Chris’ mem­ory alive.

They will host the 10th an­nual Christo­pher Mead­ows Me­mo­rial Me­mo­rial Gala in Atas­cadero on Satur­day, as a way to bring to­gether donors, schol­ar­ship re­cip­i­ents and the com­mu­nity.

It’s an af­ter­noon cock­tail party at the Pav­il­ion on the Lake that lasts from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The free event will fea­ture cock­tails, wine and live jazz en­ter­tain­ment.

Mead­ows said about 250 peo­ple have reg­is­tered to at­tend so far. (To reg­is­ter, go to www.eventbrite.com/ e /10 th-an­niver­sary christo­pher-mead­ows­memo­rial-gala-tick­ets 57753582520.)

“It gives us goose­bumps — it’s so hum­bling that we’ve had the sup­port we’ve had,” Tim Mead­ows said of the re­sponse.

“Los­ing our son def­i­nitely changed the tra­jec­tory of lives com­pletely,” he added.

Cour­tesy Tim Mead­ows

Christo­pher Mead­ows died while vol­un­teer­ing as an EMT over Me­mo­rial Day week­end at Oceano Dunes in 2009. A gala to raise aware­ness for a schol­ar­ship in his mem­ory is planned.

JAYSON MELLOM Tri­bune file

Tim Mead­ows, fa­ther of Christo­pher Mead­ows, speaks at the ded­i­ca­tion of the “Wall of Honor” in 2011 at the San Luis Obispo Sher­iff’s De­part­ment. Christo­pher was a mem­ber of the Sher­iff De­part­ment’s search-and-res­cue team.

JOE JOHN­STON Tri­bune file

Search-and-res­cue team mem­bers un­veil a re­fur­bished Humvee ded­i­cated to Christo­pher Mead­ows as his fam­ily, left, look on dur­ing Sher­iff’s Fam­ily Day at the Ranch at the Madonna Inn in 2013.

JAYSON MELLOM Tri­bune file

The Sher­iff’s De­part­ment’s search-and-res­cue boat at Lake Nacimiento was named after Christo­pher Mead­ows, a team mem­ber who died in an all-ter­rain ve­hi­cle in­ci­dent at Oceano Dunes in 2009.

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