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story.lead_photo.caption Tim Tinnin, founder of Red Warrior Slipper Project, poses for a portrait in his Cole County home. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

Tim Tinnin enjoyed a storied career with the Missouri Highway Patrol, first as a road trooper, then as a bodyguard for three governors.

He was president of the State Troopers Association. As a member of the patrol's SWAT team for eight years, he was often the first person on his team to break through doors when they needed to force entry into homes of suspected criminals.

It was a dangerous job that required more than confidence. It required a sense of invincibility, a warrior mentality. He had what it took.

However, when colon cancer claimed the life of his wife, Angie, in 2012, this muscular, normally confident man was despondent. Tinnin was suicidal.

"I kicked down doors for a living. Nothing shook me until Angie had cancer," he said.

But he persevered, and soon that warrior mentality resurfaced. This was personal. Cancer won one victory in his life; it wasn't about to win another.

Tinnin was determined not only to recover his life, but to use it to help others battle cancer.

He created "Angiepalooza," and turned it into a household word in Jefferson City. The annual fundraiser started as a street fair with bands. This year, Angiepalooza held a successful Valentine's Day benefit. While the fall concert has been canceled due to COVID-19, the Valentine's Day event will be held again in 2021, he said.

Tinnin continues to make every day count. He has his own Valentine, Kitrina Meyer, who he plans to marry in August.

And in the last couple of years, he's embarked on a new cancer-fighting venture: The Red Slipper Warrior Project. The 501c3 organization empowers girls and women to become warriors against cancer.

For females particularly, part of the battle against cancer is support — the sense they're not fighting alone. It's also a fight to preserve their identities.

"Cancer's something you get, it's not something you are," Tinnin said. "Angie used to say, 'I don't feel pretty. I don't feel like a girl. I lost my hair.' Now I realize all women say that. We have to do something to remind them, 'You're still beautiful, you're just in a fight.'"

That's what led Tinnin to his latest project. The organization sends a personalized video to girls/women fighting cancer, along with a shipment of a package in the shape of a shoebox. Inside is a "go bag" containing a pair of red slippers.

They're comfortable, pretty and they can be taken to "battle" when owners of the slippers go to chemotherapy appointments.

Tinnin is working with corporate sponsors and eventually plans to put other items in the box — lapel pins, bumper stickers and other "battle gear."

One girl helped by the Red Slipper Warrior Project was a 6-year-old girl from Holts Summit named Addie. She didn't have long to live, but she embraced the slippers, telling her family she was a warrior princess.

At her funeral, Tinnin told Addie's mom: "There are just no words. I get it. It really sucks." The mom pointed to her daughter's slippers, saying: "You know she wouldn't take those off, right?"

"She was tough as nails," Tinnin said. "At 6 years old, she died a badass."

Tinnin chokes up when he recounts stories such as this, but witnessing that kind of fighting spirit pushes him forward.

In the last couple of months, his organization has given about 75 red slipper packages — free of charge — to girls and women fighting cancer. The venture is mostly local now, but it has helped people in five surrounding states. He hopes to take the charity nationwide.

"It's so desperately needed, that's why I'm so excited. And nobody is doing this," he said. "I've had a great career, a lot of titles in my life, but hearing, 'You're the Angiepalooza guy,' or 'you're the Red Slipper Warrior guy,' that's the best thing ever. I wake up thinking about it, I go to bed thinking about it. I think I will die the Red Slipper guy — making sure little girls and women are empowered."

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