Friday, July 19, 2024

Editorial: Urgent call to help a local hero

| July 5, 2024 1:00 AM

Graham Crutchfield has known the joy of giving more than most mortals.

But now, friends, it’s time to give back. It’s time to help a local couple who spent decades focused entirely on others.

Crutchfield is a Hayden resident, former Marine and chaplain now in his mid-80s. His legacy as a fundraiser for veterans and other good causes in Kootenai County is quite simply unmatched. 

Shortly after the turn of the century, Graham led a one-man charge to raise money to purchase phone cards for local families of soldiers and sailors serving overseas. (Young readers, those were the days when overseas calls cost lots of money.) The Press was not able to resist Graham’s persistent pleas to partner in the fundraising effort and found itself a very willing assistant for many years.

After raising thousands of dollars for phone cards - a project called Operation Uplink - Graham turned his attention to disabled veterans in Kootenai County. Of utmost urgency was the need for a new van to take local Disabled American Veterans to the VA Hospital in Spokane and to other important appointments. He worked feverishly through the second half of 2003 and by the end of the year, the local DAV had the money to purchase its van.

In 2004, Crutchfield led a blitz to buy three new beds for the pediatrics ward at what was then known as Kootenai Medical Center. That mission was quickly accomplished, so Graham then led a large food drive for the 100 families of local National Guard members who were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The more he worked with these families, the greater need he saw for their medical care, including vision and dental. He was outraged to learn how inefficient and unfair the government’s health insurance program was, so Graham raised awareness and rallied critical high-level support that improved the insurance program.

In 2005 he raised nearly $50,000 to help uninsured county patients being served by Dirne Community Health Center, now known as Heritage Health. 

A year later he partnered with Chuck Buck and family of Buck Knives fame in Post Falls. With Graham raising the money and the Buck family creating unique, commemorative knives at cost for returning and former members of the military - many of whom had never received so much as a word of thanks - the partnership honored these heroes in grand and lasting style. 

That program lasted more than a decade, with many hundreds of commemorative knives distributed in ceremonies large and small.

But Dec. 9, 2021, was the last time Graham and Betsy Crutchfield were mentioned in The Press. They were named as donors to the newspaper’s Press Christmas for All holiday fundraiser, a program they had supported ardently over the years.

Now, Press staff have learned, the Crutchfields are at a critical juncture. These neighbors who gave so much for so long are facing expensive health-related expenses that they can’t handle. Because they won’t ask for help, their friends at The Press will.

Please, step forward with whatever you can give. Make out your check to Graham Crutchfield and mail or drop it off to:

Bill Buley

The Press

215 N. Second St.

Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814

A short note of thanks for all Graham has done for this community would also be heartily welcomed.