NCCU law student volunteer Allison Newton.

It was another cold and dreary day in what has to be the grayest winter on record.

Yet the corridors of North Carolina Central University School of Law were aglow in goodwill and good vibrations on Saturday, Feb. 23, as the North Carolina Bar Foundation presented the latest installment of Wills for Heroes.

Volunteer attorneys, law students, paralegals, notaries public and law school staff stood ready to prepare free estate planning documents. First responders and their spouses welcomed the opportunity to create or update wills, living wills and powers of attorney at no cost.

Everyone’s heart was in the right place.

“I heard about this from a local firefighter,” said Joshua Davis, an RN who serves as a flight nurse with Duke Life Flight. “That was a few years ago, but I had not been able to get the date to work out until today.”

Davis clearly understands the dangers of his profession and the importance of estate planning documents. Less that two years ago three of his Duke Life Flight colleagues – pilot Jeff Burke and flight nurses Kris Harrison and Crystal Sollinger – lost their lives in a helicopter crash.

“I was close to all three of them,” Davis said, “and I flew on that helicopter all night the night before it crashed.”

Davis and his wife, Sabrina, expressed their gratitude to the North Carolina Bar Foundation for making Wills for Heroes possible. To underscore their appreciation, they shared a cell phone photo of their 4-year-old daughter.

“This is why we are here today.”

For as long as he can remember, Will Oakley wanted to be in law enforcement.

“My family owned a restaurant,” Oakley said. “They (law enforcement officers) were always coming in to eat and I would hear them sharing their stories. They had the uniforms, the cars, and they were helping people.

“And I knew that I did not want to cook seafood the rest of my life.”

Oakley has been with the Durham County Sheriff’s Department for 25 years. He and his wife, LeAnn, have two children, ages 18 and 13.

“I had heard about this program before, but the scheduling never worked out,” Oakley said. “I had a will done a while back, but not a power of attorney.

“Things have changed.”

“This is why we are here today.”

Duke Life Flight RN Joshua Davis and wife Sabrina, sharing a photo of their 4-year-old

Issa Smith is a detective with the Raleigh Police Department. His wife, Cathy, is an educator. They’re both from New York and he is a graduate of criminal justice program at North Carolina Central University. They have two children, ages 20 and 16.

Smith has been in law enforcement for 25 years. He handles death investigations – homicides – and knows all too well how precious and fleeting life can be.

“My sergeant had done this program before,” Smith said, “but I have been putting it off. I Googled it and saw that they were doing a program this Saturday. Wow! I told my wife that we need to come out and get this done.”

An appreciative Cathy Smith agreed wholeheartedly.

“I put things on hold to be here today,” she said. “This is important.”

The national Wills for Heroes Foundation was established in the aftermath of 9/11, a tragic day on which hundreds of first responders lost their lives, many of whom were without wills or other estate planning documents.

The North Carolina program is conducted by the North Carolina Bar Foundation under the direction of NCBF Pro Bono Attorney Nihad Mansour.

Upcoming clinics are scheduled on Saturday, March 9, at Duke University School of Law in Durham, and on Saturday, March 16, at Campbell Law School in Raleigh.

Visit our Wills for Heroes program page to learn more or contact Nihad Mansour at 919-677-9875 or [email protected].

Wills for Heroes participants stand before the flashing lights of multiple public safety, fire and rescue vehicles at NCCU School of Law.