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“Even the life-changing news he received last year wouldn’t change the fact that he would be there to support his son.” (Rachel Rosenblum / WUFT News)
Anyone who knows Jimmy Judge knows that the only place to find him on a Friday night in fall is on the sidelines cheering his 17-year-old son Jakie.
“Like any father, you know that we enjoy watching our child play sport. Whether it’s soccer, baseball, basketball, wrestling, I just love to watch him compete and have that competitive attitude, ”said Judge.
Even the life changing news he had received over the past year wouldn’t change the fact that he would be there to support his son.
“It started about a year and a half ago, but I only got a sinus infection. But then I noticed that fine motor skills were lost in my right hand when I was on the shooting range, ”said the judge.
The judge has served with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for over 30 years and currently serves as the deputy chief officer. He has always been an avid speaker for the sheriff’s office and has spoken to many different groups in northeast Florida. During one of these speeches, he noticed a problem with his pronunciation which he believed was caused by a sinus infection. He attributed his loss of fine motor skills in his right hand to a pulled or pinched nerve due to his active lifestyle. It was only when this loss of fine motor skills worsened that he decided to see a doctor.
He was referred to a hand specialist who, according to Richter, immediately knew he had either multiple sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS. After a series of tests and a trip to Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, it was confirmed in May that the judge had ALS. ALS is a progressive disease of the nervous system that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It ultimately affects the control of the muscles needed to move, speak, eat, and breathe. There is currently no cure for this deadly disease.
ALS Association data. (Rachel Rosenblum / WUFT News)
After the judge heard of his diagnosis, he had to report it to the sheriff’s office, whose staff immediately gathered around him. He was relocated to a less stressful patrol zone and although initially reluctant to accept it, his colleagues began to provide financial assistance. They even created an account that coworkers can use to donate parts of their paychecks. The account is linked to a debit card that the judge uses to purchase airline tickets and other medical expenses.
“You kind of expect your friends and family,” said the judge, “but you don’t expect your employer and you certainly don’t expect community members so they were great.”
Co-officer Terrance Hightower has known Judge since school when their paths crossed in martial arts competition. They were later reintroduced into the field forces.
“He’s the guy who’ll give everything for you. I mean he has a big heart. He doesn’t see any color or anything, he just has a big heart. I mean right is right and wrong is wrong and he’s just trying to be good to people, ”Hightower said.
Hightower said Richter was a fighter and that illness wouldn’t change that about him.
“You want him to sit in a wheelchair and receive ALS with open arms. Man, no one will do that. … Jimmy will walk until he can no longer walk. “
The judge also impressed others. New York native Zach Van Warner moved to Jacksonville three years ago and worked in the railroad business. He recently met Richter at the gym and said once he met him he knew he would prevail in his life. He just didn’t know why.
“The first time I met this gentleman, I was in love with him,” said Van Warner. “He offered respect through his eyes and demeanor at the same time, but his smile never left his face. I watch as he enriches the lives of everyone who comes around him, whether they know him or not. “
Shortly after they met, Judge shared his diagnosis with Van Warner, who then felt inspired to start a Facebook group that had grown to over 1,000 members. Van Warner and his wife decided to do more and created the Jax Blue ALS Foundation.
“When I meet Mr. Judge and his family I feel like I can and can do more and I have this attitude that doesn’t stop and that’s why I won’t stop until we figure something out about this family help.”
The foundation’s task is to collect donations to support families affected by ALS and to create awareness in the community. Her current focus is on the judging family, but the goal is to reach as many families as possible.
Jimmy Judge focuses on how it comes each day.
“I had a great life,” said Richter. “You gave me a year, but I don’t even think about it. I just think about every day and just keep going. I have a great wife and son and my parents are the blueprint for what parents should be. They really keep me positive too. “