MILWAUKEE — A former West Allis police officer is at the head of a non-profit with national reach. Ryan Kendall's law enforcement career was cut short in a violent way and now he wants to help others who might be struggling in the wake of similar situations.
A traumatic spinal injury, while on the job in the summer of 2019, immediately paralyzed Officer Ryan Kendall. At age 37 he was told he'd never walk again unassisted.
"I tried everything, everything in my power to get back to the job that I love. Because being a police officer was everything to me," said Kendall.
In the years that have followed he's learned it's okay, to not be okay. And now Ryan Kendall is sharing that message with other first responders who've been sidelined. His non-profit, Injured Sheepdogs, offers resources for physical and mental health, substance abuse and PTSD, nationwide.
"It sounds great," said Kendall, acknowledging his journey. "But I went through a really dark time."
After spinal surgeries and months of intense physical therapy, he was walking again with the help of a brace. But the day Kendall realized he would never again wear a badge, something inside of him broke.
"I came home, and I turned on music and I put notes on every window — um, for my girls — to not come inside, to just call the police," he recalled, growing emotional. "And I literally had my Glock in my mouth. And I was — I was ready to do it," he admitted with tears running down his face.
It was photos of his wife and two daughters — his girls, as he calls them, that stopped him. "I immediately threw away every bullet that I had," continued Kendall. "And I said — I need help."
Before he ever picked up the gun, Kendall did reach out to two crisis agencies but said they never got back to him. That's why Injured Sheepdogs was born. The phone line is available 24/7 and confidential (That number is (414) 699-9076). And it's not a 1-800 number. If you call, you'll hear Kendall's voice on the other end.
"If I'd have had that (support), I wouldn't have had to go through that," said Kendall. "That's the biggest point with Injured Sheepdogs. We don't want anyone to suffer in silence."
Kendall knew he couldn't help anyone until he helped himself. He spent a lot of time with a therapist who works exclusively with first responders and has now joined Injured Sheepdogs and its mission.
Since he was a little boy, it was Kendall's dream to be a police officer. Today, his eyes have opened to a new calling. "I would say it is my purpose. So obviously God had a plan for me," said Kendall.
Injured Sheepdogs is a 501 (C) 3, which means 100% of any donationgoes to the organization.
Kendall says the name, Injured Sheepdogs, comes from a term coined by the military and police departments. A sheepdog protects the flock at any and all costs.
The Injured Sheepdogs hotline is (414) 699-9076.