MONTICELLO — The family of slain Champaign police officer Chris Oberheim has had their house paid for by a non-profit foundation dedicated to helping first responders and military people.
The New York-based Tunnel to Towers Foundation said Officer Oberheim’s mortgage was one of 50 to recently have been paid in full.
“Our mortgage is our highest household expense month to month and when you’re trying to figure out how to do that without your husband, that’s a financial burden and a stress I’m very grateful not to have to endure any more,” said Amber Oberheim, the widow of Chris Oberheim.
He was killed May 19 in a shooting in the parking lot of the Town Center Apartments in the 2400 block of North Neil Street as he responded to a domestic dispute.
The man who shot him, Darion Lafayette, 24, was then shot and killed by Officer Oberheim’s partner, Jeff Creel, who had also been shot by Mr. Lafayette but was saved by his bullet-proof vest.
Officer Oberheim, 44, was a 13-year veteran of the Champaign police department and before that had worked as a Decatur police officer for seven years. Besides his wife, he is survived by four daughters. They live in Monticello in an approximately 20-year-old house they’ve occupied for six years.
“Chris and I worked hard to get it where it is. We’re not going anywhere,” said Amber Oberheim.
She had heard of Tunnel to Towers prior to her husband’s passing “but it wasn’t something I thought about at all in that moment.”
Friends nominated her for inclusion in the non-profit’s program and she submitted an application. She was notified a few weeks ago they had been selected for the assistance but only Wednesday did she learn that the foundation had agreed to pay their mortgage in full.
“It does restore your faith in humanity,” said Amber Oberheim, who is channeling her grief into establishing a foundation in her husband’s memory.
“The Tunnel to Towers foundation was created in memory of New York firefighter Stephen Siller, who was killed on 9/11 (2001),” she said. “His family, much like ours, felt like they needed to do something to continue his legacy and make his life matter.
“What they’ve been able to do in 20 years is phenomenal. They are helping so many families of first responders and veterans and families of 9/11 responders who have fallen ill. I’m extremely fortunate to be part of that family and that they are doing what they do,” she said.
The announcement by Tunnel to Towers marks the largest one-day mortgage payoff in its history and was made possible, in part, by donations the foundation received on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“This year, Americans came together to remember the incredible loss of life that occurred 20 years ago when evil struck at the heart of our great nation. The Tunnel to Towers Foundation promised to never forget what happened on that day and so many people across the country have joined us on our mission of doing good by giving back to our heroes, both living and fallen,” said Tunnel to Towers CEO and Chairman Frank Siller.
“Thanks to the generosity of this great nation, the Oberheim family and 49 additional families will never have to worry about making another mortgage payment, and will always have a place to call home.”
The 50 homes are in 18 different states and belong to the families of fallen police officers, firefighters, deputies and members of nearly every branch of military service.