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Nannette Wride and Shante Johnson became friends because they both became widows.

The women were wives to policemen — Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Cory Wride and Draper Sgt. Derek Johnson — both of whom were killed in the line of duty.

Shante Johnson lost her husband first, on Sept. 1, 2013. Cory Wride died months later, on Jan. 30, 2014.

Shante Johnson knocked on Nannette Wride's door soon after, offering her support, which in turn helped both women navigate through the haze of their grief.

"It brought such life into my lungs and I knew, she's four months out … and if she can do it, I can do it," Nannette Wride said.

That friendship grew into the idea for a national foundation for the widowed spouses and children of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

The Blue Haven Foundation was officially launched Wednesday with a news conference on Utah's Capitol Hill.

The foundation hopes to provide a network of widow-to-widow mentoring services and other forms of support. About 25 widowed spouses have already come forward to offer their help, said Wride, who serves as the group's vice president.

Wride contends Blue Haven's network can provide something unique: an understanding of the law enforcement culture. That provides, she said, a safe and understanding space in which to talk about things it might be hard to discuss with others.

"I know if we, as widows and the children of the fallen, can lock arms and be together, I just know we can heal," she said.

The foundation's volunteers, including Johnson, have already begun their work, Wride said. They rallied around the wife and family of Unified Police officer Doug Barney, who was killed last month, and are traveling to Oregon and Colorado to the families of other fallen officers.

"I will do anything I can for widows and widowers," Johnson said. "Because I know what her nights are like. I know she prays for the day."

Blue Haven's announcement comes as Utah lawmakers consider a bill to clarify the death benefits provided to spouses and children of slain officers.

Last year, the Legislatures expanded death benefits to increase the $1,500 death benefit to a lump sum equal to six months of an officer's salary and extending health insurance benefits.

HB159, which is sponsored by Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, would further extend the health insurance to surviving spouses, even if they remarry, and to surviving children until age 26.

The bill has cleared a committee hearing and is awaiting a vote of the House.

Information about Blue Haven can be found at http://www.facebook.com/Bluehaven.foundation or on the web at http://www.bluehaven.foundation.

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