The Our Fallen Hero Foundation (OFHF) keeps Aaron’s memory alive by hosting annual charitable fundraiser events. OFHF is small so we act as a “feeder” charity, raising funds locally near Aaron’s hometown of Mokena IL which are then presented to our partner charities: larger, well-known highly reputable benevolent organizations. (see list of Partners)
Generally we raise money, they pool it with other funds and spend it wisely. OFHF’s board selects worthy 501c3 charities to work each year based on the following:
1)We seek partners that share OFHF’s stated goal of “providing support and aid to veterans and other individuals in need, locally and nationally”
2)We select partner charities based on the level of cooperation we are able to achieve in order to maximize the impact of the money we raise.
3)We strive to maximize our local impact around Aaron’s hometown of Mokena by using his story and example to inspire local youth, raise awareness of worthy veteran causes, and communicate to our fellow citizens the incredible benefits provided by our partner charities.
* Misc: Manteno Veteran's Home, Mokena VFW, Band of Brothers, Veterans' Garage
Pam Toppen is Aaron’s mom. Only those who have experienced the same can know the profound crippling pain when that instant of realization occurs - when the mom of an active duty soldier sees solemn uniformed men at her front door in the middle of the night and lives are forever changed. It means the world to her to have such heartfelt help in her two labors of love: keeping her son’s memory alive and turning this tragic mess into energy for good. Thank you is only just a start of her gratitude to all our supporters.
Amy Toppen - tragically lost her brother, Army PFC Aaron Toppen, while he was bravely serving in Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan. Through the work in his memory, including serving on the Board of Our Fallen Hero Foundation, Amy and her family have found strength in an ever-expanding community of support. And while it certainly brings pride to honor his memory, what she misses the most about Aaron is his wit, his silliness, and his willingness to help others.
Amanda Gralewski - is the sister to PFC Aaron Toppen and also holds the secretarial position for the Our Fallen Hero Foundation. Amanda is a full time clinical nurse liaison for a local hospital and in her free time she is always kept busy with her 3 daughters and their social/sporting events. Amanda really has found lots of joy in being able to assist the veteran community all while keeping Aaron’s name alive.
Bridget Shafer - is an Associate Creative Director at Grant Thornton LLP, where she leads the campaign creative team for the firm’s marketing discipline. Bridget earned a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art and Digital Media Art and Design from Michigan State University. Outside the office, she channels her creativity toward planning fun events for her family and friends, serving as a Girl Scout Daisy troop co-leader, traveling, cake decorating and never missing the chance to catch the Dave Matthews Band—and on top of all that, she’s a proud mom of three. Bridget has volunteered with the Our Fallen Hero Foundation since its inception and is the founder of the Our Fallen Hero 5K.
Ellen Gill - is a Chicago native, growing up in the western suburbs before going to the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. Upon graduation, Ellen was commissioned as Ensign in the Navy, and she spent six years active duty as a Surface Warfare Officer, serving tours on the USS TARAWA. USS OSCAR AUSTIN, and Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes. After leaving Active Duty, Ellen graduated from DePaul University with her Master in Public Administration, and since then, has held roles serving the military and veteran community at the USO of Illinois, Rush Road Home, Pat Tillman Foundation and currently at the Department of Labor - Veteran Employment and Training Services team. Ellen currently lives in Western Springs with her husband Ethan and her rescue dog Belle.
Ellen Bailey - is a retired banker and busy grandmother who lives in Aaron’s home town of Mokena IL. She is the mother of Bridget as well as Brittany, our longstanding 5K event chairperson. She serves as treasurer, compliance officer and financial guru for the Our Fallen Hero Foundation.
Christine Bilus - is the sponsorship director for the Our Fallen Hero Foundation. She is a 14 year resident of Mokena, a special education kindergarten teacher, and a married mother of three teenagers. She enjoys connecting with people in support of our foundation. Christine believes in leaving the world a little better off than she found it by helping to raise funds in support of servicemen and women.
Jimmy White - is a husband, dad, and Branch Manager of the Jimmy White Group, Powered by LeaderOne Financial where he has an office in Aaron's hometown of Mokena. He's an avid Chicago sports fan and loves cooking at home. His mission is to elevate and empower people and thinks there's no better way to do that than by supporting servicemen and women in honor of Aaron.
Jack Winter - is Aaron’s uncle and older brother to Pam Toppen. As a kid, he got in trouble during Sunday School with Aaron's father, Ron Toppen. He taught Aaron the words to Frank Zapppa's Muffin Man, how to spin a basketball on one finger and the proper way to administer real good wet willies upon his sisters. Jack did a 35 year stint in financial markets and once got to ring the bell at the NYSE. He is proud to now have the time and opportunity to honor his dear nephew’s memory by doing a small bit of good in the world for all self-sacrificing veterans by acting as OFHF Board President.