Challenge Coin

A letter from Carson’s parents and CHMF founders, John and Debbie Higgins

A challenge coin is a coin or medallion that traditionally signifies a person is a member of an organization. They are rarely given away; when they are, it is a high honor. Carson received his first Challenge Coin from his Uncle Lee, who was a member of the U.S. Coast Guard. During our family’s Trip Of A Lifetime, many of the U.S. National Park Rangers, touched by Carson’s courage and his story, shared their challenge coins with Carson. 

There were many remarkable moments and memories from our trip. In the Badlands, the Chief Ranger gave Carson his iconic Stetson dress flat hat. The Chief Ranger in Mt. Rushmore gave Carson a very special challenge coin, one that is rarely given out. In fact, only eight had ever been given out, and only to those men and woman who worked on the face of Mount Rushmore. Carson was given the ninth. 

The National Park Team in San Francisco arranged to have two California Highway Patrol officers and two Petaluma Police Officers escort us to an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge and a special tour of Alcatraz. When Carson “challenged” the officers, the CHP had their challenge coins ready for Carson. The Petaluma officers felt terrible, as they had not brought theirs with them…but then, one of the Petaluma police officers reached deep within his bullet proof vest and pulled out a coin that had the Police officer Prayer on it. He looked at Carson and said, “Carson, for 22 years I have had this coin over my heart, hoping one day it might stop a bullet to my heart, but I want you to have it.” What an amazing moment and gift!

Carson treasured these gifts, as he understood the coins embodied the givers’ values. During our trip, Carson started to design his own coin, selecting items and activities he loved to be reflected on his coin—he wanted it to be special and embody him. His goal was to send one to each person who had shared theirs with him, to others he loved, and to all who supported him. The coin was Carson’s personal thank you to those who graced him with love and kindness during his life, and to challenge others to live a generous, kind and inspiring life. We ensured Carson’s wishes were fulfilled, having his challenge coin minted. Carson’s original design is found within the coin, with the only addition of 12 stars, one for each year of his life. One was sent back to each of these incredible, generous and kind Rangers as a small token of our appreciation…and more have been given to his family and those special people in Carson’s life and legacy.

— John and Debbie Higgins


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