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Article by Kelsey Huber

Photography by Provided

Topeka City Lifestyle is proud to introduce the first annual Salute to our First Responders - a benefit concert to raise funds for Topeka’s firefighters and police officers. Come out and celebrate with great music by local artists, food, and drink.

 The Heroes Salute Project is the brainchild of Topekan, Matt Norman. Norman was born and raised in Kansas and has served in the military for 15 years - six years in the Marine Corps and nine in the Kansas Army National Guard. He had some experience with fundraisers in the past. His good friend, Steve Pope, a Kansas City firefighter, established the First Responders Golf Foundation.

“Everybody is familiar with PTSD for those in the military,” Norman shared. “But firefighters and police officers see horrific things as well. They suffer from PTSD too, but there are no real PTSD programs for first responders.” Norman explained that traditionally, especially for men in these fields, admitting they need help unfortunately still carries a stigma. “They see asking for help as a sign of weakness or an excuse to get out of work. We have to change that.”


Norman said he struggled with PTSD for five years before seeking help. “It takes its toll on you at work and at home,” he said. He finally went to the Veteran’s Center for free counseling. “One visit - I put it all on the table,” he said. “Just hearing it out loud made a huge difference. Then it was figuring out how I was going to deal with this. I made a plan with my family and finally started moving forward. Sharing really helps. You realize you’re not alone. We’re all the same.”

He also pointed out that first responders don’t ever get a break from their traumatic experiences. “I may be deployed for seven months, but when I’m home, I get a break,” he said. “First responders never know what they are going to see or experience with the next call - car accidents, drug overdoses, domestic abuse, burn victims, the list goes on. But they are expected to deal with whatever it is - shift after shift after shift.”  

Norman saw how his friend used the game of golf as a tool to help firefighters and police officers open up about what they’ve experienced on the job. “It’s a lot easier to talk one-on-one to a buddy on the golf course than in a formal setting like a therapist’s office,” Norman said. “Just sharing stories with each other is extremely therapeutic and it doesn’t feel unnatural. It just comes so much easier in that setting.” He wanted to help support his friend’s cause, but wasn’t sure exactly how.

 “Music is my thing,” he said. “That’s why I decided to organize a concert.” So Norman, with the help of his wife, Brooke, put together the Heroes Salute Project. Proceeds from the concert will go to the First Responders Golf Foundation.


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Salute to Our First Responders Fundraiser Concert

Date: September 29th

Location: The Aurora at Vinewood - 2842 SE 29th St. Topeka

Hours: 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.

Full Bar


Food Trucks

Silent Auction - items donated by local Topeka businesses


Musical Guests Include:

Savannah Chestnut - Kansas native and The Voice contestant

Craig Wayne Boyd - Won Season 7 of The Voice

Noe Palma - KCMO firefighter and Nashville recording artist


Tickets are $10 (available online and at the door if not sold out)

Order tickets online at


Come on out, Topeka, for some good old-fashioned summer fun and say thank you to these heroes who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe. Enjoy great country music, drinking, dining, and dancing and support these men and women who do the things the rest of us are glad we don’t have to do. Thank you, first responders!!!



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