A law enforcement officer from northwest Iowa will be honored as a “hero” during halftime of Friday’s football game between Iowa and Nebraska. Red Cross staff selected Buena Vista County Sheriff Gary Launderville from a field of more than 200 nominations.
He and his wife, Sandy, have served as foster parents to 125 children, seven of which they eventually adopted. Launderville says he was “shocked” by the award because he doesn’t consider himself a hero.
“I guess I don’t look at what I do everyday as far as my profession, nor as a foster parent…I guess I’m so used to doing it everyday that it doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary,” Launderville told Radio Iowa. “But as time went by since I’ve been notified, I’m very humbled and very appreciative of everybody’s thoughts and comments.”
The 54-year-old Launderville has worked for the Buena Vista County Sheriff’s department for 30 years, the last three as sheriff. He and his wife hosted three foreign exchange students shortly after they were married 32 years ago.
“After we hosted the third (student), we had some good friends who started in foster care and we saw the difference they were making and saw the need for local kids who needed homes,”Launderville said. “So, we kind of made the switch from hosting foreign exchange students to being foster parents.”
The Launderville’s have four of their own children in addition to the seven kids they’ve adopted. Their children range in age between six and 35. In addition to his role as a foster parent, Launderville is being honored as a “hero” for an incident on January 25, 2010. The sheriff responded to a report of multiple vehicles that were stranded in a blizzard.
Launderville recalled, “As I checked the last car, I was just getting ready to go back to my squad car when a car came out of nowhere, in blizzard conditions, and hit me.” Sheriff Launderville was thrown 20 feet and suffered multiple injuries from which he’s still recovering. He was fortunate to survive.
“I was very lucky. It’s moments like that that really make you appreciate everything you have, like family,” Launderville said. The Storm Lake resident and seven of his family members are receiving free tickets to the Iowa/Nebraska game.
Although he has no direct ties to the University of Iowa, Launderville says he’s a big fan of the Hawkeyes. Kathy Griess of Fremont, Nebraska will also be recognized during halftime of the “Heroes Game.” She’s credited with saving the lives of two children who were trapped in a mobile home that was on fire.