CHAMPAIGN — Ask Amber Oberheim and her four daughters how long six weeks is and you might get different answers.
That’s the amount of time that has elapsed since their lives were turned upside down by the death of their husband and father, Champaign police Officer Chris Oberheim.
He was fatally shot early on May 19 as he responded to a domestic dispute at a north Champaign apartment complex, and ever since, his immediate family have channeled their grief into action intended to boost support for law enforcement nationwide.
Along the way, they have felt the love of countless people, both inside and outside law enforcement, in a way that has kept them exceptionally busy.
On Wednesday, Amber Oberheim and her daughters, Hannah, 21, Avery, 18, and Addison and Aubree, 14, made time to bring their message to WDWS’ “A Penny For Your Thoughts.”
A nurse practitioner who’s not been back to work yet, Amber Oberheim has made several public appearances promoting Peacemaker Project 703 — “a God-serving foundation we created in Chris’s honor” in the past few weeks. Wednesday was the first time since their father’s funeral that the public had a chance to hear from his daughters.
“There’s been so many different groups and organizations that have reached out. (From) 50 states,” said Avery Oberheim, who’s about to enter Heartland Community College, where she will play softball. “That’s crazy, insane. Nothing we expected.”
“It’s meant a lot,” said Addison Oberheim of the support. “It’s hard to be sad and cry whenever you have this much love and support around you.”
The Oberheim women intend to take up the hundreds of people from around the country — and even Uganda and France — who have offered help by putting them to work on the Peacemaker Project 703.
“We have a vision to promote our nation’s positive regard and respect for law enforcement,” said Amber Oberheim.
That will happen through outreach and education and will start right here in central Illinois, where Chris Oberheim was a Champaign police officer for 13 years. Prior to working for Champaign, Mr. Oberheim was a Decatur police officer for seven years. His family settled in Monticello, in between the two communities.
“Respect, integrity, family and service,” said Amber Oberheim of the core values of Peacemaker Project 703.
Amber Oberheim said her family is overwhelmed by the support they’ve received from friends and strangers, even a letter from former President Donald Trump. The men and women in law enforcement need to hear aloud that support, she said. That’s the point of the foundation, still in its infancy.
“Making the choice to be heard is very important now,” she said. “We are the silent majority. Many of our officers have support, but often, it isn’t known. What we have seen in six weeks has been very well known. I would challenge everyone to come out of that comfortable space of silence and use the choice to use your voice.
“We start here, locally. We support our officers and let them know this is the way central Illinois is choosing to take a stance,” she added. “From there, the message will grow. The Oberheim girls are ready to tackle what God puts in front of us.”
The Oberheim daughters expressed their pride in their mother for first sounding that clarion call for respect and support of police at her husband’s funeral in a speech that took her about 90 minutes to write.
“My prayer was, ‘God, give me the words to say what is in my heart and brain,’” she said. “Even though I hadn’t thought about it for very long, I meant it.”
For now, the Oberheims are spreading news of their foundation on Facebook and Instagram. A website dedicated to Peacemaker Project 703 is in the works.
“It will be fairly robust,” Amber Oberheim said of the site that will feature a link for donations.
Until that goes live, people are asked to follow Peacemaker Project 703 on Facebook and Instagram. For those who aren’t fans of social media, donations can be sent to Peacemaker Project 703, P.O. Box 703, Monticello, IL 61856.